Saturday, May 11, 2013

Saint John the Wallachian, neomartyr of the Romanian Church

Saint John the Wallachian is a martyr of the medieval times. He was from Wallachia, or the „Romanian Country”, that is today the southern part of Romania and died in Istanbul, because he refused to convert to Islam, on 12 May 1662.

St. John was born probably a few years before the middle of the 17th century in a village near the river Jiu, in the southeastern part of the today Romania, during the reign of the Voivod of Wallachia Matei Basarab (1632-1654), the most prolific builder of churches (46 and many restorations works) in the whole Romanian history. After the death of him it followed his nephew Constantin Şerban (1654-1658) and Mihnea III Radu (1658-1659). The latter took the power with the help of the Turks. Wallachia was a tributary principality to the Ottoman Empire for about 200 years already and many voivods used to gain the throne by offering big sums of money to the sultan. Mihnea probably took his throne through the same method, but shortly after he didn’t want to accept the big taxes imposed to the country by the Turks. So he made an alliance with the prince of Transylvania George Rakoczy II and the voivod of Moldova Constantin Şerban (the former ruler in Wallachia) against the Ottomans. Shortly after, in 1658 he ordered the killing of the squadron of 2000 Turk soldiers, attacked and destroyed some ports and bridges at the Danube. His attack was coordinated with similar rebellions in Moldova and Transylvania. In the spring of 1659 the Turks invaded Moldova ant Transylvania. Mihnea reported some small victories against the invaders but finally fled in Transylvania where he died poisoned on 6 April. On their way back, the Turks crossed Wallachia on the valley of Jiu and took a lot of prisoners. Among them was John, a 15 years young boy of „good ancestry” as his biographer, John Kariophiles noted, that meaning from a noble family.
All the prisoners were, according to the Ottoman law, the slaves of the sultan, being bought back by their real possessors, usually the soldiers, for a sum of money. The soldier who captured John was attracted by his handsomeness and tried to seduce him. After some resistance, the soldier told him to accept the orders from his master, but John replied that his only master is Jesus Christ. Then he tried to tie the young on a tree in order to rape him. But the boy escaped in a moment, killed that soldier and tried to flee. He was caught and taken to Constantinople, where the soldiers led him to the Grand Vizier (a kind of prime minister in the Ottoman state), who decided to give him to the wife of the killed, so that she will decide what to do with him. The widow decided to keep him because of his handsome look. The next two years and a half he remained as a slave in her house and she tried to seduce him, but he resisted, even if she promised that she will take him as husband and give him a good status, if he will accept to convert to Islam. He refused her offer and the woman decided him finally to send him to the prison and trial him for the murder he committed. In the prison he was praying incessantly to Christ, in order to strengthen him to keep his faith during the tortures. Even here the widow came daily in order to persuade him but he did not accept to renounce to the faith of his ancestors.
Finally he was taken out of the prison and brought to a place called Parmak-Kapi („the gate of the finger”, or “of the pillar”), near Bezesteni, the great bazaar of the merchants, in the Galata quarter of Istanbul. There he was hanged on 12 May 1662, being younger than 18. It might be that his body was thrown in the Bosporus waters, as it was the use, or maybe he was buried by the Christians, but this information remains unknown.


His life was written by a scholar of the Ecumenical Patriachate, named John Kariophiles and printed in Venice in 1799 by the hagiograph Nikodimos Hagiorites, the same one who compiled the Orthodox theological book called „Philokalia”, and translated in 1801 in Romanian together with the life of St. Dimitrie Basarabov. The vita of the saint was introduced into the Greek Menologion from 1843 in the day of his death, 12 May. The same happened three years later, in 1846 in the Romanian Menologies.
In spite of being Romanian, St. John remained as an „anonymous” among the more important saints celebrated on 12 May, Epiphanius of Salamis and Patriarch Germanos of Constantinople. Only in 1950, during a meeting of the Romanian Synod it was decided the generalization of his cult, that meaning it was proceeded to the composition of his own liturgical service, and five years later (1955) he was officially proclaimed among the other national saints.

Troparion (hymn of the saint)

"Today the Church of the pious Romanians spiritually celebrates and shouts joyfully: Come, lovers of martyrs, to celebrate the yearly memory of the struggles of the new martyr John. He was raised among us by God's will and blossomed wonderfully in the imperial city of Constantine, bringing to the Lord rich and welcomed fruit, through his martyrdom. And now he prays incessantly in heaven, to save our souls!"

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Saint Irodion from Lainici monastery

Saint Irodion (Herodion) is one of the newest proclaimed saints in Romania, a monk living in the 18th century as abbot of a monastery in the mountains, near the border between the provinces Oltenia and Transylvania.
A file discovered in the National Archives (no. 335 from 1872), referring to all the monks in Gorj county, states that the monk Irodion Ionescu was born in Bucharest in 1821 – the year of a revolution against the Turks, when the dominance of the Greek nobles from the constantinopolean quarter Fanar has finished. The same file offers some other informations, that he was tonsured as monk in Cernica monastery, near Bucharest, in 1846 –that as, being 25, and at the moment (1872) he was 51 years old and abbot at Lainici monastery. He had a pleasant look, brown hair and green eyes.
At the beginning of the 19th century the abbot at Cernica was St. Calinic who, afer being ordinate as bishop of Râmnic (in 1850) took the young Irodion with him and sent him in 1851 to the hermitage built in Lainici, a pass made by Jiu river through the Carpathians, serving here as deacon since the summer of 1853. In 15 June 1854 a decree kept in the archive of the Diocese Râmnic New Severin states that the bishop ordained him priest, and both abbot in Lainici, being 33 years old, after the resignation of the former abbot, hieromonk Cyril to give the next book appointment.
Irodion didn’t resist too much as abbot because of the protesters, who didn’t enjoy his strong asceticism, and resigned on 30 June 1855, being appointed the oikonomos (the administrative responsible) Dorotei instead, on 2 July. He resisted also only a year and asked the resignation too and was followed by After another year, Irodion was reappointed abbot, at the will of the monks and of the laymen donors of the hermitage, as a writing of St. Calinic on a page of the Triodion, on 29 March 1857, suggests. Another request made by another abbot named Luca in August 1859, suggests that in someway the instability inside the community continued in the next years. Probably Irodion resigned once more and Luca was asking this time again the reappointment of Irodion. In any case after 1859 at least for the next 4 years the silence came back at Lainici. Irodion helped at the construction of another hermitage, at Locurele, proceeding to the selling in 1861 of some cult objects, in order that the monks to have all the necessary. Appointed for a while as ecclesiarch of the cathedral in Craiova, Irodion left once more his hermitage – being replaced between 8 June 1863 and 25 May 1865 by hieromonk Ilarion.
In 1865 Irodion is for the forth time abbot and tries again to organize the community. The turbulences persisted, so he asked in November 1869 the resignation and also the moving in another monastery. The next years in the hermitage were very difficult because of the lack of organization, but also because of a law given by the prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1859 - 1866), which stated the secularization of the Church’s properties, very great at that time – about ¼ of the total surface of the country, but from which a big part was administered by the monks from Athos, Palestine and Sinai monasteries.
For the 5th time Irodion was appointed abbot in Lainici in 1873, because there was no one to try to save it.This time he remained here until his death, occurred in 1900. After a while the spiritual life increased and also the number of the monks – from 15 to 30. He used to bear a surname – bishop Calinic used to call him every time he came in the monastery as “the morning star of Lainici”.
In 1877 the new prince Carol I (1866-1878, king between 1878-1914) allied with the Russian tsar Alexander II (1855-1881) declared war against the Turks. During this war (in Romania known as the War for Independence) Irodion and 12 of his monks helped as nurses on the battlefield.
In 1889 bishop Ghenadie of Râmnic appointed him also as abbot of the Locurele hermitage.
 The local tradition of the monks states that Abbot Irodion used to celebrate daily the Holy Liturgy and the Eucharist and had the spiritual gift of the foreseeing, reading the thoughts of the people he met. Also he made exorcisms and prophesized the future. He also foreknew his end, telling also that the hermitage will be abandoned after some years.
Abbot Irodion died in 1900 being buried near the altar of the church. In 1916 during the war, the Germans occupied the hermitage and transformed the church into stable for horses. Only in 1929 Abbot Visarion Toia managed to restore the monastic life here.

The Veneration

Seven years later the hieromonk Julian Drăghicioiu opened the tomb and found the body of the saint unchanged, so that he decided to bury him back.
Searching for the relics, 2009
Later in 1929 Visarion Toia opened the tomb again but buried him in a deep place which was discovered only after the entire community of the monastery, headed by Archimandrite Joachim Pârvulescu fasted and prayed for a week, and also Metropolitan Irineu  of Oltenia prayed too. Finally he was discovered in 10 April 2009. His relics had the usual brown-orange colour of the holy bodies and spread the typical incense.
The skull of the saint discovered in 2009
On 29 October 2010, the Synod held in Bucharest decided the canonization of Saint Irodion of Lainici, who was for a while the confessor St. Calinic of Cernica. Saint Irodion is celebrated on 3 May. His Relics are kept in the church of his monastery.
Canonization ceremony

Troparion (hymn) of the Saint
“Our Morning Star (rom. Luceafărul) of Oltenia, now we his disciples praise him with mysterious worship as a chosen parent, because Saint Irodion was foreseer, healed all (the people) from diseases and has shown himself in his life as divine spiritual father!”
The coffin with the relics

Details from the saint's life on the coffin
 about the discovery of the relics: there are some beautiful pictures here and especially on this facebook account

The icon and the relics of St. Irodion in Lainici