The Martyrdom of the Holy Fathers

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During Holy Week in 1680, Hagarene pirates looted and ravaged the coastal areas around Rafina. Out of malice, a servant of the Monastery had conspired with the pirates to lead them to the Monastery through a secret passageway he knew of.

 

The Fathers, having been subjected to looting and raids many times before this, had constructed, as a final means of escape from danger, a secret emergency exit –an underground tunnel –leading all the way to Rafina. It was through this tunnel that, on the night of the Resurrection, the traitor led the pagans to the interior of the Monastery. There, the pirates surprised the monks, who were all assembled in the Church with candles lit, chanting the last "Christ is Risen" of the Paschal Divine Liturgy. What followed was a complete sack of the Monastery and a terrible massacre of all the fathers present. A total of one hundred seventy-nine Monks found savage and gruesome deaths in the resulting carnage.

The lone survivor from among the Brotherhood was one monk who happened to be away at the time of the slaughter because he had been performing the Paschal service at another church of the Monastery, the dependency "Herosakkouli", where the servants who toiled in the fields attended services. As this monk was returning to the Monastery the next afternoon – on Pascha Sunday - he saw from the forest the burnt-down buildings and, in a heap beside the ransacked main entrance, the slaughtered bodies of his monastic brethren. Seized by fear, he headed to the summit of the mountain whence he had just observed the environs and was able to distinguish the inlet of Rafina; noting there the vessels of the Hagarene pirates getting ready to sail, he soon realized what had happened. The following day, Bright Monday, at daybreak, he observed the pirate ships raising anchor and sailing away onto the high seas. Immediately, he rushed to his Monastery ... there to behold a truly gruesome sight.

How could one describe the tears and anguish of this lone survivor? Entering the Monastery, he wept copiously, shouting in anguish and beating his breast upon seeing the flock of Christ strewn about the ground "like sheep devoured by wolves". For it truly was a terrible and merciless slaughter the servants and Martyrs of Christ had undergone! One of the fathers had received a blow on the shoulder that had cleaved him down to the navel. Another had been sawn in half; another, with neither arms nor legs attached, resembled a stump of lifeless wood; still another had been split open from head to chest. Arms were lying about everywhere, with heads separated from torsos; there were various body parts wherever he looked, and intestines that had been spilled into the soil with the whole mixed in blood.

This monk beheld venerable priestly Elders still grasping in their hands the Holy Bread despite having been brutally dishonoured, flayed, and battered; other holy men, anguish still engraved on their faces, had their hands prayerfully crossed in humble acceptance of death. All had suffered the cruelest of tortures in shedding their blood over the blessed area of the Monastery. Yet, although their earthly bodies had been cast about in the dust, their souls had flown high up to Heaven. Prior to their bloody sacrifice, they had lived the Martyrdom of tears, but now they tasted the Martyrdom of death, thus imitating the First and Greatest Martyr, Jesus Christ.   They had spent their entire lives pleasing God, praying endlessly, adorning their souls with virtues "cultivating the barren desert with streams of tears"(translation from the apolytikion/hymn to all saints). Finally, with the shedding of their blood on the night of the Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they had been counted worthy to enter the Heavenly Kingdom with our Risen Lord, there to be placed among the ranks of the Holy Martyrs and to stand at the throne of God our Lord, where they ever since have been praying incessantly for those of us here below.