Saint Andrew the Russian
Confessor in Cairo
Commemorated on 4/17 July
The ancient monastery of the Great Martyr George in Old Cairo (Eski-Masir) is rarely visited by pilgrims, and indeed, only in the event of a funeral do the local Christian Arabs visit it, as it possesses the only Orthodox cemetery in the area, with a chapel in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Near the monastery church a small chapel was built wherein one of its sacred possessions, an ancient, miracle-working icon of St. George, could be kept. Both Christians and Moslems bring their sick, especially those suffering from mental disturbances and epilepsy, to this sacred shrine. They bind their patients with chains to a marble pillar which stands before the chapel, and after a prayer service to the Great Martyr, they leave them there for several days. From time to time those who are bound recover their faculties and are cured without receiving any medication. Moreover, in that same monastery the patriarchal almshouses are to be found, wherein the Alexandrian patriarch provides refuge for twelve poor and helpless elderly men and women, chosen from amongst the local Orthodox population.
This small and poor monastery, erected near the ancient fortification towers, is also remembered because herein a Russian man by the name of Andrew, who is called the Blessed, struggled unseen, wherefore his labors were unnoticed. He was a rare example of Christian humility and of unshakeable steadfastness of faith. This humble servant of God, enfeebled on account of the tortures inflicted upon him by the barbarians, told no one about the things he had suffered. The Lord, for Whose Holy Name he had suffered, alone knew these things, as also did a certain poor priest, who himself had found refuge in the almshouses of St. George (this priest was the spiritual father of Andrew and the latter had shared some of the episodes of his martyric life with him). So great was the humility of Andrew! After his blessed repose, when the news of his confession was made known to certain people, they esteemed him as one of Christ’s confessors and as an ascetic, and here we set forth that which it has been possible to learn concerning the ever-memorable Andrew, as it was related by his elder, the priest.
Andrew the Russian lived for twelve years under the care of the Monastery of St. George. He fell asleep in the eighteen-fifties and was laid to rest in the Orthodox cemetery of Old Cairo. The priest had known him for four years. Where Andrew’s birthplace was in Russia is not known. It may be that he told his spiritual father about this, but the latter remembered neither the name of the province, nor the town. Judging from the facts relating to the whereabouts and circumstances of Andrew’s enslavement, one may surmise that he was born in the Caucasus in some Cossack settlement and, therefore, it follows that he hailed from Cossack stock. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Caucasian Cossacks were often attacked by the Circassians who took many captive. It is likely that Andrew, while yet a boy, was captured on one raid and taken into the mountains, later to be placed on a ship of a Turkish fish-trader. Thus he was taken to Istanbul, where he was sold to an Egyptian master.
The unfortunate Andrew, not understanding the language and intentions of his master, entrusted himself in all things to the will of God. Moreover, aware of the oppressive enslavement of his kin from his village by the Circassians and, thinking that no better fate awaited him, he submitted to his destiny, but by no means would he offer to do anything beyond what was demanded of him. “I will,” he thought, work for the apostate, and while a slave I will seek consolation in the Lord alone, and furthermore no one will ever separate me from the Orthodox Faith in which I was born, nourished and raised. Whose concern is it whether I am a Christian or even a Jew, as long as I fulfill all my obligations dutifully?”
However, the fanatical master did not think thus. He desired that his white slave (what a rarity!) should reflect his magnificence, and be a model of the true Moslem. Perhaps in time, should he present him to the governor of the area, he might himself become a man of renown. Similar cases were not uncommon in Turkey of pashas and even grand viziers of slave origin, especially with respect to those from the Caucasus. If these slaves had formerly been Christians, they forcibly were made Moslems. At first they would loyally serve their masters, still keeping the right Faith; then, if the master were governor of a pashalic, they would receive some unimportant position in his retinue, whereupon they were adopted into their master’s household, and, finally, profiting from the rich and powerful satrap1, they made their own careers and sometimes attained government offices of the highest rank. Whether motivated by future benefits gained from zealous service or by youth or fear, almost all the captive Christians – Abyssinian or Caucasian – who fetched high prices in the slave markets of Istanbul and Cairo, became Moslems as soon as they entered the households of their Islamic purchasers, often becoming quite fanatical.
Such was to be the lot of the Russian captive Andrew, at least so the Egyptian who had purchased him supposed. Not realizing that Andrew commanded much religious conviction or steadfastness, he took him into his household as a sign of his wealth, hoping to ennoble this “piece of furniture” by making him a Moslem. And so begins the story of persuasion, injunctions, compulsion and, in the end, torture. Andrew was no longer a child, and he understood the sanctity of the faith in which he had been raised; it was impossible for him to cast aside his convictions. He believed that only the Orthodox Faith was true, especially now, when he could see the various abominations of the Turks. His ignorance of the language of this foreign land helped him to safeguard his treasure inviolate and it saved him from moral downfall.
In the beginning Andrew’s owner was kind and did not implement his intention to make a Moslem of him. Therefore, Andrew, submissive to his fate and having become somewhat accustomed to his circumstances and to the ways of his master, patiently bore the burden of his slavery and gave thanks to Providence that he had been destined to serve a master who at least did not persecute him nor interfere with the things sacred to his Faith. His only grief was that inimical forces had torn him from his blessed fatherland forever. Thus month after month passed; the Turk observed him and noted that not only did he possess physical strength but that he also had intellectual gifts and good moral qualities: modesty, absolute obedience and unusual probity and a love for labor. From this time he began to consider Andrew as a real hidden treasure and set about making plans concerning him. The master was a family man; he had grown-up daughters for whom he had to provide, and so now his attention came to rest upon his newly acquired slave. This slave was not a black from the depths of Africa, but a Caucasian and furthermore one of Russian stock – such a rarity not even the Ottoman seraskiers2 could boast of. In his master’s eyes, Andrew possessed all the possible merits, only a knowledge of the local dialect was lacking and, most important, he was not a Moslem. Andrew shunned the manner of life that his master led, for it continually grieved him; he did everything mechanically, without enthusiasm and from the time that he became a slave no one ever saw him smile. Furthermore, something akin to disdain was apparent in his actions. The master suspected that the cause of such behavior was the fact that he was as yet a Christian; for could a Christian ever esteem the customs of Moslems, still less adopt them? He resolved, therefore, to make Andrew a Moslem and thought of calling him Abdallah, that is “the slave of God.” The fanatic set about gradually converting his servant to Islam by using the name Abdallah.
Andrew immediately understood what this was leading to and he resolved in his heart to preserve unshakably the holy Faith of his fathers even though it might cost him his life. Therefore when they called him Abdallah, he did not answer, as though he did not understand whom they were addressing and would come only when he heard his Christian name, Andrew. The master noted that it would not be an easy task to change the Russian’s religious convictions. This was no pagan from whom coaxes and threats might gain anything one wished for. Therefore, he resorted to wily seductions, promising Andrew many things. He assured him that in time he would allow him his freedom, as a member of his household. He even promised him honors for his obedience. The whole family helped in the task of diverting Andrew from the right path; each member pampered their slave in every way. Rather than burden him with onerous labors, they consoled him speaking of the joys of his future status. They even made allusions to his having a bride from amongst the family, were he only to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ and become a Moslem. The helpless Andrew saw all these snares, and he was perturbed by all the proposals made to him, for he now understood Arabic; however, he was not fooled by the promises which in his eyes were plainly fraudulent. He sensed that after a period of success there would follow one of bitter disappointment, and then he could not turn back. In his heart there would remain only despair. Nothing would be able to console him. Being a good Christian, he considered all these things to be temptations and snares laid for his destruction by the devil. Having no support nor any good friend he found his only consolation in secret prayer, in converse with God, the protector of the oppressed; he snatched the opportunity for this in the free minutes of the night when no one was watching him. One day, having lost all patience with his masters’s propositions, he declared openly that he was in complete submission to the will of God; he was resigned to his lot as a slave in a foreign land, and that, as a slave, he would fulfill all his obligations as sacred insofar as his strength would allow, but concerning any apostasy from the Christian Faith he advised his master to have no thought of persuading him. He confessed that he would sooner be sundered from life itself than renounce his Lord and Redeemer.
The master, having been spoiled by the usual unquestioning obedience of his slaves and inferiors, did not expect such steadfast resistance, and thus he changed his method completely. Formerly he had been a kind master; now he became a tyrannical torturer. Andrew, unshakeable as he was, soon began to perceive and to feel his master’ displeasure. Strict chidings were heard instead of the earlier meek biddings; endearments were replaced by coarseness; he was constantly jostled and his Christian Faith was cursed. No longer was he called Andrew, instead they referred to him as “infidel dog.” No matter how efficient and industrious he was, in no way could he please his masters. The other black slaves, who had formerly been somewhat dependent upon him, began to maltreat him constantly. The duties of the Christian were increased threefold. He grew weak without rest either day or night, and furthermore the most degrading work was assigned to him. Instead of having tolerable and decent clothing he was obliged to wear smelly rags, and one need not even mention his food – the laborer went hungry and it was only after his extra labors that they would throw him, as though he were a dog, a crust of stale bread. The unhappy sufferer was aware of the reason for his afflictions. He heard threats that this was to be only the beginning of his torments if he did not submit to his master’s demands. He knew all this, but with steadfast hope in God’s aid he prepared himself for whatever might be his lot.
Seeing that belittlement, exhausting labors and deprivation had no effect upon his unyielding slave, and that rather, to the contrary, they strengthened him in the Christian Faith, the Turk resorted to measures of another kind. Everyday he was scourged with lashes of ox-hide for no reason at all; often he was denied even a crust of bread all day, and on hot days they would not even permit him a drink of water, so that it was only at night that, secretly, he could quench his thirst. Everyone watched him; everyone from the master to the most lowly slave persecuted him. Yet he endured and remained steadfast. Not even the flattering persuasions of the old men, the maalmin or teachers of the Moslems, could shake him. Thus did the hapless captive suffer for almost a year, and by his invincible long-suffering he overcame the tyrant’s obstinacy. And so the Turk despaired of achieving his desired goal. Disheartened now, he began to grieve, not over the spiritual destruction of his slave but over the money that he had expended upon him. The Turk was, therefore, prepared to sell him for a reasonable sum if only to rid himself of such a man, who by his moral example, his marvellous patience, his meekness and piety, put to shame his master’s convictions, hopes and finally ridiculed his very despotic rule.
Humiliated and grieved on account of his slave, after a futile attempt to torture him, the cruel despot was sitting one day with his nargileh3 in a coffee-house and related his woe to one of his friends, a staunch Moslem.
“With that unclean Christian, my Muscovite slave,” he said, “Allah has sent me a trial. I thought to bring good fortune to the unworthy giaour4 and to do something that would please the prophet by putting this infidel on the path of right belief. And lo, I have been struggling with him for almost a year now, yet he grows more and more obstinate. I have flattered him, I even clothed him as I would my own child, and fed him at my own table. I promised to adopt him into the household as though he were born therein – all to no avail. Then I resorted to sterner measures; any one else would have given in in a day or two, but not my slave, he became more persistent. I beat him with whips until he was exhausted. I starved him for a whole week at a time. It would have been an easier fate to be a stray dog than to share this unfortunate’s lot; nevertheless he endured everything in silence. He suffered as though it were not his own body that was tormented and, most disagreeable of all, never did he complain or ask for mercy, rather he prayed to his Jesus. He told me: ‘Effendi,5 I am prepared to work for you until I die should my strength hold out, only do not try to force me to change my holy Faith. In vain do you disquiet yourself, I will not become a Mohammedan. I will remain in the confession which I received from my parents. It is their prayers that help me!’ As regards integrity, humility and love of work, this man is golden and I would never part with him. But now he shames me and sometimes I cannot even bear to look at him, hapless as he is. It seems to me that he is laughing up his sleeve at all my endeavors. My neighbors also mock me, and my friend, the mullah,6 called me a fool to my face because I cannot overcome a contemptible slave. And so nothing remains for me but to rid myself of this odious Christian even though I might have to settle for a low price.”
“Clearly you are a man of weak character, as you cannot fulfill this holy task to the glory of Allah! If you wish, sell your slave to me and you will see how I shall make of him the most zealous of Moslems. This will now be my concern. Allah-kerim!7 Do you agree?”
The effendi quickly settled on a price with him, and poor Andrew was transferred on that very day to the other’s house, to a new master, to torments worse than before.
On entering the new house, he had a premonition that now his real afflictions were to begin and that what he had borne so far was, as the saying goes, only the blossom and that the fruit was yet to come. However, he entrusted himself wholly to the providence of God, and in secret he prayed to the Lord to give him strength for this new contest, fought to the glory of His holy name; also, that, if it were well-pleasing unto Him, he might be numbered among the host of martyrs whose fate now threatened the defenseless Andrew. “I put all my hope in thee, O Mother of God,” he prayed. “Guard me under thy protection!” And in very truth there was no other protection for him save only the unseen refuge of the one who intercedes before the Lord for the oppressed.
The eyes of his new and bestial owner scanned him, and therein the slave encountered neither kindness, nor any goodness. The master and his domestics all regarded him with malice and suppressed hatred. The new effendi immediately made his demands clear to his slave: “Listen, faithless dog,” he greeted Andrew, “I did not buy you that you might teach me; nay rather, I will instruct you, and I will not permit you to defile my house and my servants with your loathsome religion. I will make a true Moslem of you, and then you yourself will bless me. You will recognize the true faith, and will honor Mohammed, the prophet of God, rather than this Nazarene of yours. If you are obstinate, as you were with your former noble effendi, you will be in peril of a cruel death by torture. I shall not begrudge the money spent on you. Such is my decisive sentence! Let us see who will deliver you? You are my slave, and are therefore obliged to fulfill all my demands unquestioningly, whatsoever they may be. Now go and consider, you will be given a job to do this very day!”
“Effendi,” answered the unfortunate Andrew, “my body belongs to you, but my soul is God’s. If it pleases God that I should end my life in burdensome slavery, I will submit to His holy will, and will work for you as far as I am able; only I ask of you one thing: do not abuse my conscience, leave me my sole consolation, leave me my Christian Faith. You can torture me, or rather, you can torture my body, but all the same my soul belongs to God alone, and in the future life He will recompense me for my temporal sufferings, of this I am convinced and I hope that the Lord will not leave His hapless servant bereft of His mercy and aid.”
Andrew’s simple but resolute words convinced his new master that it would be difficult for him to defeat such a steadfast Christian and that here flatteries, lures and persuasions would be to no avail except to bring him shame and moral defeat at the hands of this exceedingly courageous Christian. Therefore the fanatic, one not accustomed to being contradicted, resolved to act vigorously.
The most onerous and the basest duties were assigned to meek Andrew. His master had a house with a large garden in Buluka, and this garden and the toilsome watering thereof were entrusted to the laborer. Andrew did the work of three men and knew no rest neither during the day nor at night, but despite all this he did not succeed in fulfilling his obligations, for they were beyond his powers. For such short-comings, the malicious tyrant rained down blows upon the unfortunate one with a liberal hand.
Because of the lack of workmen, the garden began to decline noticeably, for at the very least three men were required to care for it. Formerly there had been three, but how was it possible for the unfortunate Andrew, morally and physically wearied as he was, to do it alone? Nevertheless they accused him of laziness and refractoriness.
The sufferer was transferred into his master’s house, and he quickly came to understand that it would have been better for him to work until exhausted in the garden, and perhaps on one hot day to bring his laborer’s struggle to an end under a tree, dying there from sheer exhaustion. So far they had tormented him for his supposed negligence, but now he encountered something completely different. Here they were no longer punishing him with work beyond his powers, but they desired to overthrow his firm Christian convictions and, whether he will it or not, to compel him to accept the Moslem faith that he hated. Were he to convert to that religion, they promised Andrew anything, all the advantages of life and the diversions that the Moslems enjoy which he had seen for himself. However, the very thought of renouncing his Faith and taking up their bovine existence disgusted him so much that his hair stood on end. He understood that the holy Christian Faith, his only consolation in his captivity, teaches us to live a life patterned on the utter contrary. During his frequent prayers the voice of his Faith constantly reminded him that, should he apostatize, all would be well for now, but what would await him beyond the grave? The Lord says, “Whosoever lays down his life for My sake shall save it.” “No,” thought the sufferer, “I will take up my cross and go whithersoever the Savior directs. Without His willing it, not a hair of my head shall fall. What have I to fear? In all things let God’s will be done!”
Andrew prepared himself for everything that the soulless tyrants might devise for him. The effendi again proposed that he either become a Moslem or suffer such torments that he could not even imagine. The unfortunate Christian meekly remarked that he had given not the slightest cause for them to torture him, for he had worked honestly and even exceeded the resources of his strength; however if his master were thirsting for his blood, he was prepared to suffer, and asked only that they refrain from demanding that he apostatize, for this would profit nothing and would only deprive him of a faithful slave.
The exasperated Turk thereupon summoned his barbaric black slaves and commanded them to introduce their comrade to a hundred lashes across the soles of his feet. The slaves immediately threw Andrew off his feet, and secured his legs with ropes to a large pole. Two of them held this pole at its ends some thirty inches from the ground, and their fellows set about beating the unfortunate one across the soles. Andrew began to cry out, then he groaned and finally he fell silent. He had lost consciousness. However, not once did he utter a word asking for mercy, nor did he promise to fulfill the godless demands of his master. When that villain saw that his slave was half-dead, and that blood was pouring from underneath his nails he commanded that the torture stop and that they throw Andrew into the cellar. There Andrew came to himself, but now he could not stand on his feet. An intolerable thirst tormented the sufferer and so with groans he begged for some water. One of the slaves who had apparently also tasted of the effendi’s cruelty, pitied him and gave him water and a piece of bread. However Andrew’s wounds were tormenting him, the insects stung him and the mice, smelling the bread, boldly came out of their holes and nibbled at the crust which soon disappeared. Night fell, a night of torment! The insects and creeping things of every kind crawled out from the damp crevices in the cellar and began to crawl over the living corpse. Andrew suffered and prayed that the Lord grant him, as a great mercy, death.
But it was not to be. Yet more agonizing sufferings were in store for the martyr, sufferings such as only the first Christians endured, those martyrs of the time of Nero and Diocletian. Thinking that these torments had had an effect upon his unyielding slave, the effendi commanded that he be taken to a more comfortable room, and there that his wounds be treated. Andrew bore everything with true Christian patience. He blessed God for the trials which He had sent him; he thanked his comrades in captivity should any of them, whether by word or deed, have shown sympathy to him and thus had defied the orders of their deluded master.
With the aid of simple home cures, or more properly speaking, with God’s aid, the sufferer got up and once more set about his work. It would seem that his first, cruel and futile attempt to make his slave a Moslem, should have taught the tyrant to leave so steadfast a Christian in peace, but unfortunately Andrew’s former master visited this effendi. Learning of the failure of the latter’s missionary enterprise, he in turn laughed at his firm resolve and noble zeal. This grievously offended the barbarian’s self-esteem and no sooner had he taken leave of his friend than he summoned his slave and demanded of him whether he intended to convert to Islam. The latter’s reply in the negative put the fierce tyrant into a fury. The black slaves, cold-blooded though they were, became disturbed by their master’s plans; however, they were obliged to carry out his will. The evil one ordered that Andrew be bound to a pillar and reed splinters driven under his nails. Andrew moaned, struggled to free himself, begged for mercy, but promised nothing. Even the household servants besought the malicious one to terminate these bestial torments. However, the groans finally died away, and Andrew hung in his bonds like one dead.
The evil one’s anger cooled, and he as it were, mellowed, leaving the Christian to reconsider his position. However, the more Andrew suffered for the Holy Faith, the more he was strengthened therein; with every stripe his heroism waxed stronger. Distinguished Moslem fanatics were called upon, one after another, but the confessor was deaf to their arguments. Some of them sought to persuade him with threats and abuse, but before such men he was silent. Others attempted to weaken his resolve with comforts and promises of all the good things of earth and paradise; with such men he sometimes began to reason and with his simple words, full of righteousness and truth, and with his moral principles, he oftentimes constrained them to silence. It would appear that the wheedling preachers brought him more harm than the crude fanatics, for after their departure, this God-fearing and steadfast captive almost always had to endure some new inhumane torment. Who could it be, if it were not God’s providence, but the Lord Himself, Who invisibly restored the sufferer’s strength, so that after these afflictions he remained whole and unharmed?
The poor captive lived in this manner and knew so little about the affairs of the world outside his torturer’s house that nothing could serve to alleviate his lot. Although he knew that he was a Russian, he had been taken so far from his homeland that he had not been granted to hear even so much as one word of his native tongue since. Could he know that in Egypt there were representatives of the Russian Empire, who perhaps could have afforded him protection, had they been aware of his unhappy fate? Andrew could not complain to the authorities of the Moslems, for he understood that he was a slave, lower than the animals and completely in the power of the villainous and wealthy Mameluke.8 To whom then could he turn for refuge at that terrible time, when even the effendis mercilessly destroyed one another, and they in turn fell without a murmur under the yataghan9 of a certain adroit despot from Albania, Ali Pasha?
Andrew did not fear the torments, nor did he lose heart or waver in confessing the holy Christian Faith, he feared only that his suffering would go on endlessly, and particularly he trembled at the thought that they might well use violence to inflict the customary Moslem operation upon him, after which, whether he will or not, he would be obliged to submit to the society of the Moslems. Although they would not have altered his convictions, they would cease to believe that he was still a Christian. This is what the confessor feared and he prayed the Lord to send him a Christian end the more quickly and to vouchsafe him a martyr’s crown. The Lord heard the prayer of His suffering servant and granted him an end, not to his life, but to his afflictions, wherefrom he emerged as a true soldier of Christ, an unconquered confessor with grievous wounds covering his body (bearing witness to his triumph) which he bore until his blessed repose.
Time passed. One day the effendi returned from some place in an extremely bad frame of mind. All the slaves trembled and tried to anticipate their master’s wishes in order to carry them out punctiliously and thus avoid his bestial outbursts of passion. Regardless of this no one could satisfy him and everyone was accused of laziness and sluggardliness. Once, noticing that all his slaves stood before him, saving only the ailing Andrew, the tyrant commanded that he be brought, and, as if he did not observe that he, pallid and weakened, cold scarcely support himself, he approached him and rudely began to reproach him for indolence and disobedience. Andrew was calm and undisturbed; he heard the fanatics’s bellowing and cursing in silence, and secretly prayed the Lord to grant him patience in the afflictions that were to come, as the malefactor’s furious rage forebode. The serenity and silence of his captive incensed the despot all the more.
“How long, miserable slave, will you afflict me by your obstinate attachment to your abominable religion and how long will you continue to deride our holy and true faith? No, I will not permit you to sneer at us, and at God’s friend, the great prophet Mohammed! Let us see what you will have to say when I command that your obstinacy be steamed out of that ram’s head of yours, and with it all of your Christianity; we shall see whether your God Isa Nafani (Jesus the Nazarene) will help you! Know, infidel, that now our savior is Mohammed the prophet and not Jesus! You need only say: ’Lya ilyamakhmed-rasul-allah,’10 and you will be saved, you will be our son, but otherwise you will perish, both your filthy body and your impure soul. You will perish like a dog. So say it!”
Unshaken, Andrew heard neither his curses nor his senseless affronts against the holy Faith of the Christians. He became, as it were, a rock and only prayed in his soul: “O God, may Thy mercy be upon me a sinner! I believe, O Lord, help Thou mine unbelief!”
The torturer ordered his slaves to heat a tanzhere (that is, a copper vessel) until it was red hot and to bring it to him quickly. Anticipating the frightful torture, no one dared to break the silence. The furious Mameluke silently smoked his pipe, making curling clouds of tobacco smoke. He was so enraged when they did not bring the terrible torture instrument for some time, he ran short of breath. Finally the tanzhere, smoking from the heat, was brought to the torturer; he spat upon it and with a hiss, the filthy spittle evaporated. In the interval while he observed his servants lest they deceive him, and while he continued to demand a decisive answer from the unfortunate captive, the tanzhere cooled somewhat. When he received no answer, the effendi, as though he were a tiger, threw himself upon his defenseless victim. He took a pair of tongs from his slave, laid hold of the heated tanzhere and immediately put it, as if it were a hat, over Andrew’s head. Andrew staggered and, with a groan, fell to the floor as though he were dead. Smoking and hissing, the tanzhere fell off to one side and the room was filled with a terrible stench. The evil Moslem was stupefied and dully looked upon the Christian, his innocent, martyric victim. Although the red-hot tanzhere had not been long upon the sufferer’s head, his hair, his crown, nose, ears, cheeks, and neck were all seriously burnt. Andrew was scarcely breathing and he made no sound. The tyrant, thinking that the hapless one would soon die, kicked him and commanded that they remove him.
The slaves were benumbed with horror. Now indeed they were able to understand just how far the bestial cruelty of their right-believing and pious zealot for the Islamic faith could go. Each one realized that their master might well treat them in the same way. When they came to themselves, they carefully took Andrew and, as though he were a breathless corpse, they laid him on a mat in the corner of their room. Now it was manifest that all these slaves, whom one might suppose to be barbarous and savage, when adjudged with respect to morality, greatly excelled over the bestial lord. The unmerited punishment of their fellow awakened in them an undying feeling of brotherly love. Without the knowledge of the effendi, they began to heal Andrew with their household cures, and they secretly let it be known throughout the neighborhood how bestial was the conduct of their master, the torturer. And thus some time passed. Beyond all expectations the severely burnt Andrew began to recover little by little, thanks to the ministrations of his comrades, and so it was that he was able to rise up from his little mat. However, a noticeable change had occurred in him: he said very little and would oftentimes give abrupt answers, he became pensive and downcast, and it was only at night that he prayed aloud, fancying that no one could hear him for, as a result of the cruel torture, he had himself become hard of hearing.
Among the strangers who visited the Turk’s house, a certain Armenian who was not infrequently there, learned of Andrew’s bitter fate. He was a well-known local saraf or banker, and he had seen Andrew there. The saraf was a good man, and despite his passion for commerce, the feeling of Christian love for one’s neighbor and that of sympathy for the oppressed were not entirely overwhelmed within him. From one of the Mameluke’s servants he learned the whole story of Andrew’s persecutions for the Faith of Christ, and greatly impressed by such heroic contests, the like of which are written about only in the ancient martyrologies, he resolved to save this steadfast combatant. One day, the saraf chanced to come see the Turk on business, and having discussed his concerns, he then turned the conversation to the white Russian slave. Why had he not seen him for a long time? Had he been sold? The effendi unsympathetically related how he had struggled with his disobedient slave for such along time, and how, after a light admonition, this wretched slave had fallen ill and was now doing nothing. In conclusion the effendi said that he would be glad to be rid of him, but he was at a loss to know how this might be accomplished.
“Excuse my candidness, noble effendi,” said the good saraf, “but I have heard from reliable sources that your slave did not fall sick, but is actually ill as a result of the last torture which you, in your fury, vented upon him. Now, thanks to your paternal solicitude for his correction, he is incapable of doing anything; and further he will soon die and you will have suffered a loss. You ought to know, besides, that the rumor has spread around the whole city that you murdered your white captive, and everyone condemns you for your cruelty. And should word of this reach the consuls, then beware lest the wrath of the pasha fall upon you; you should know that the consuls will not permit anyone to assault a Christian and though he be your slave they are empowered to take him away from you for good.”
The Mameluke became rather thoughtful.
“Effendi, if you do not wish to lose your money on account of the death of your slave or because he will be taken from you, I will spare you that grief. Nothing remains for you to do, but sell him to someone else with all haste. But who amongst your own people will buy him? He is good for nothing. No one will take him even if he is given away, and it will certainly not pay you to set a price upon him. If you wish to free yourself of this grievance, sell him to me and then it will be my concern. You will lose nothing and will not be answerable. Only bear in mind that I am delivering you only for the sake of our acquaintance and friendship, for I have no need of your slave and wish only to do you a service.”
The effendi’s face brightened. He quickly realized that this was indeed a friendly service, though he did not understand what motivated the saraf’s extreme generosity. He wanted to respond with feigned magnanimity, because in his soul he was willing even to give the crippled slave away as a gift. But now he was being offered a ransom.
Without revealing his satisfaction on hearing the Armenian’s proposal, the effendi suggested that he take the Muscovite slave and in return pay as much as he himself considered to be fair. The contract was soon sealed. The mercenary Turk, on receiving a price greater than he had expected, was overcome with delight and began to spew forth the customary eastern compliments, and, forgetting the difference in their religious convictions, he even called the saraf his friend, yea, and his brother.
The saraf, on the other hand, was serene, and hastened only to accomplish his good and Christian deed.
The tormented Andrew knew nothing of this settlement and was, therefore, astonished when he found himself at the saraf’s house. He had been acquainted with him beforehand. Now he came to understand the situation and was heartened by the sure hope that they would no longer torture him for bearing the designation Christian. From joy he burst into tears. As a thank-offering for his deliverance he resolved to serve his new master for as long as his strength would permit, especially as they had received him into the saraf’s family with utmost kindliness and concern. However, the saraf thought otherwise: he did not wish to extract any profit from the piasters that he had expended in buying Andrew, and, besides, Andrew was already an invalid. Having fulfilled his Christian duty, Andrew’s deliverer wished only to bring his holy task to a successful conclusion more speedily by obtaining the unfortunate one’s release and by securing a future for him. The saraf made his way to the Greek patriarch and told him about the bitter lot of the latter’s co-religionist, Andrew, and how God had assisted him in freeing this martyr from the hands of his Turkish executioner. Furthermore he explained that, having purchased the poor Muscovite, he had no intention of deriving any material benefit from him. He proposed to commit him to the patriarch’s care, who no doubt would not refuse to fulfill his holy and Christian obligation, either to provide for the hapless one in the patriarchate or to send him on his way back to Russia, his homeland.
Touched to the depths of his soul by the good saraf’s tale, the patriarch sincerely thanked him, but he grieved that he had not known earlier about his unhappy co-religionist, and had been unable to take any measures to ease his bitter, martyric fate. He asked that he be presented to him in private in the patriarchate. And so it was that on the next day, the enfeebled Andrew was presented to the patriarach who received him as a true confessor for the Faith of Christ, promising that after his complete recovery he would be sent back to Russia through the Alexandrian consulate. However, this last promise did not gladden Andrew as the patriarch had supposed it would.
“Holy Master,” said Andrew, “it is already too late for me to return to my fatherland. I am now incapable of heavy work. I cannot earn my bread by my own labors. You yourself can see, holy master, what I look like. I shall not reach my homeland. I shall most likely take my leave of life on some ship and not in Russia, my native land. Besides, what would I find in my homeland? By now none of my kinsfolk is left. My father was murdered long ago by the Circassians. My old mother, likely as not, died of grief and anguish when I was lost without a trace. Therefore, it only remains for me, the homeless and crippled one, to beg Your Holiness to bless me to end my martyric and, it would seem, short life somewhere hereabouts, close to a church of God so that I might pray therein to the Lord for the salvation of my soul and for the health of my benefactors and deliverers. As long as I have the strength, I shall work at my obedience and thus I shall not have to eat your bread as a gift. I need very little. I am your servant and shall remain your faithful slave forever on account of your beneficence.”
The patriarch agreed and placed the sufferer in the almshouse at the Monastery of St. George in Old Cairo without imposing any obligations upon him. Andrew went to Old Cairo with inexpressible joy and peacefully settled into this quiet haven. He was given only old clothing and simple food but he was satisfied and sincerely thanked his benefactors. Now he could breathe freely. Now, when he arose in the morning he knew that there was no one to beat him, no one to tyrannize him, and that he could just as safely lie down to sleep without fear and he could await the rising of the sun in peace. Now there were good people around him, all Orthodox Christians and not ferocious beasts who on a senseless whim, or more often because they had nothing to do, made sport of him in the most inhumane manner and who most assuredly would have killed him, had the Lord not sent him a good guardian angel in the person of the pious saraf. Being godly and meek, he wholeheartedly gave himself over to the service of God and by his struggles soon stood in the ranks of the great desert-dwellers.
Andrew asked the patriarch’s blessing that he might serve in the poor church of St. George, clean up the Old Cairo monastery and put the interior of the chapel, where the wonder-working icon of the great martyr is found, in order, for those suffering from epilepsy who had fled thither for healing. The silent devotee of God labored from morning until evening in the church, making God’s temple clean as was meet, or he would work in the dark corridors of the monastery’s towers, walking about with a basket on his shoulders and a broom so that he might gather up all the refuse and take it out beyond the monastery wall.
The laborer did not miss one service. During the divine service he could constantly be seen either quietly praying or reverently serving in the sanctuary and the church. Having been neglected previously because of the carelessness of the former caretakers, the church and the monastery were now soon cleansed of all rubbish, refuse and dust. Those bound by chains before the icon of St. George ceased to fear the overseer and went to the shrine in absolute submission, knowing that the good and meek Andrew would care for them. Meanwhile, the godly laborer, Andrew, apparently as a result of the torments that he had endured, became weaker each day and became more pensive, and towards the end he was completely melancholy. Rarely did he speak with anyone, and then only briefly. He worked continually, he cleaned, he swept even more than his duties required and all the while without interruption he quietly said in Greek the short prayer: “Lord have mercy.” However, when he prayed in Russian he made use of the prayers that he had learned in childhood. Because his head had been seared by the red-hot kettle, he was unable to grasp Greek, but if he happened to talk with someone, he was able to make himself sufficiently well understood in the local Arab dialect. Knowing of his unusual meekness, his goodness, tireless love of labor and his solicitude for the tidiness of God’s house and of the monastery, everyone called him “the Blessed.” And no one would offend him either by word or in deed, for they considered it a great sin to disturb the humble confessor, the obvious wounds on whose body constantly witnessed to his great contests for the Faith of Christ. All the Orthodox Greeks and Arabs knew the blessed Andrew and on occasion they used to honor him with their gifts, but Andrew gave everything to the poor because he himself had once been poor.
Thus did the blessed confessor live in Cairo for almost twelve years, fully content with his situation, although, in fact, the poor Muscovite’s situation was anything but enviable. He was consoled simply by the fact, as he himself expressed it, that he was serving God and St. George. Worn out by his previous sufferings, by his labors and his fasting, the servant of God became sickly and finally took to his bed completely. No one took care of the patient and he did not demand that anyone should nurse him. His sole wish was the more quickly to leave the world in which, in the very deepest sense, he was a stranger and pilgrim. Nothing bound him to the earth, there was nothing to comfort him, he had ceased to think even about his homeland, as if it were no longer to be found upon earth, and so he prepared himself for death with rejoicing. Feeling the approach of his end, Andrew called, for the last time, the poor priest who lived within the almshouse and who was his spiritual father. He confessed, partook of the Holy Mysteries and ended his days as a righteous man. The peaceful, blessed repose of the confessor made a deep impression on those who were in the care of the almshouse; now they surrounded the righteous struggler as was fitting and grieved that during his life they had not honored him meetly, thinking he was a fool. Quietly, without any ceremony, they chanted the funeral service for the departed pilgrim in the cemetery church of the Theotokos, and they laid him to rest in the common cemetery enclosure among the departed fathers and brethren. No wooden memorial, no cut stone, nor even a simple stone stands on his poor grave. Andrew lived for God alone, to what purpose then was it that people should know his grave, even though they might be his compatriots?
Peace unto your dust, faithful servant of God, ever-memorable Andrew! Your suffering for the Christian Faith, for the Faith of the fathers, the Lord alone will judge and will glorify you in His Kingdom! Perhaps in the Moslem lands there were many other similar sufferers of the Christian Faith, but who, excepting the Lord, knows of their bitter fate?
1. Satrap: A petty prince; a despotic subordinate official.
2. Seraskier: The title of the Turkish minister of war, who is also commander in chief of the army.
3. Nargileh: A water pipe.
4. Giaour: Turkish term of abuse for Christians.
5. Effendi: Master; sir; a Turkish title of respect.
6. Mullah: A teacher of the laws and dogmas of Islam.
7. Allah-kerim!: Thanks be to God!
8. Mameluke: One of a body of soldiers recruited from slaves converted to Islam, who had great political power in Egypt until they were exterminated or dispersed by Mehemet Ali in 1811.
9. Yataghan: A long knife, or short saber, without a crosspiece, common among Moslems.
10. “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is His prophet.”
Taken from Orthodox Life, Volume 27, No. 2, March-April 1977, pg. 38-42; Volume 27, No. 3, May-June 1977, pg. 39-46; Volume 27, No. 4, July-August 1977, pg. 24-28. Published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
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