25 February 2021

Batting zero

The Forever War rolls on...

This past election cycle, I made for myself a five-item ‘litmus test’ that I would cast my primary ballot on, as well as decide how to cast my general election ballot. My litmus items were: Medicare for All, $15 an hour, ending the forever war, relaxing visa restrictions on legal immigrants and meaningful criminal justice reform. (As I have said before: even though I am solidly pro-life in my political convictions, that issue has been relegated to a position of electoral irrelevance, largely by the fact that Republicans want to keep it as a culture-war ‘wedge’ and won’t do anything about the issue.)

Even this five-item litmus test was in fact a slightly watered-down and dumbed-down version of the seven-item litmus test that I made early in the primary season in response to the candidates’ answers to survey questions in the press. I pulled a 1944 Russell Kirk and voted for Gloria La Riva on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, because Biden’s record was against him on all five of the issues that I care about and decided to stake my vote on.

Recent events, and at least two events this past week in particular, have confirmed over and over again my choice to not support the Democratic Party with my vote. We’re back to Bourbon Democracy, in that the Democrats have both forgotten nothing about their failure in 2016, and learned nothing from it. Biden is clearly hankering after a thorough drubbing in the midterms next year, and a devastating loss in 2024 to a Republican candidate who will no doubt make Trump look like a tame kitten in comparison.

Let’s start with Medicare for All – a reform to our healthcare system which we desperately need, and some version of which all other industrialised countries and even conservative monarchies have… and which Biden said he would veto if it crossed his desk. Biden’s healthcare plan was literally written by the insurance companies. And not only does it fall short of Medicare for All, but it doesn’t even provide for a public option, which was the compromise position for the Democratic candidates back in 2008 when Obama was running for president! Joe Biden is facing down a massive crisis in the American healthcare system and doing nothing to fix it. He’s not even slapping a plaster on a massive hæmorrhage.

Now let’s go to the issue of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Biden has privately told governors he is not going to fight for it, despite this having been his one single campaign promise that I liked, and which could have swayed me to vote for him if I thought he was sincere about it. Clearly he wasn’t. His politics around wage increases are clearly a cynical ploy to attract working-class voters into his electoral base before abandoning them. Biden having won the election, he could very easily put pressure onto Democratic senators like Joe Manchin with vulnerable seats, and twist their arms to get them to support a $15 per hour mandate in the relief bill. But that promise was all hot air. He isn’t going to do it, for the same reasons that Obama didn’t push for a public option in the Affordable Care Act. His interests are with the donor class, and the donor class simply doesn’t want to pay their workers more.

Asking for meaningful criminal justice reform or meaningful policing reform from the key Democratic sponsor in the Senate of the infamous 1994 crime bill should probably have been seen as trying to squeeze blood from a stone. And the recent attempts by centrist Democrats to continue qualified immunity for police officers accused of wrongdoing, in the name of quixotically-elusive ‘bipartisanship’ and ‘political compromise’, along with Biden’s administrative attempt this past week to refund the brutal COPS initiative of the Clinton-era Department of Justice (which placed resource officers in public schools, for example), do not offer a great deal of hope that he’s likely to advance this cause either.

Visa reform? Rights for legal immigrants and asylum seekers? I had little enough hope for that on the campaign trail, when Biden decided to blow up at immigrant-rights advocate Carlos Rojas and told him to vote for Trump. This past week saw Biden open new detention facilities, and reopen an infamous Texas tent camp to continue processing deportations and family separations. Biden is not only straight-up continuing all of Trump’s most hideous abuses of legal asylum seekers, he actually appears to be expanding them.

And then there is the forever war, of which Biden has long been a supporter, and now appears to be continuing with all the incontinence and callous disregard for human life we ought to have expected from him from the start. Biden has just bombed Syria. Again. Just like Trump did and just like Obama did. The people of Syria and especially the long-suffering Orthodox Christians of that country have suffered more than their fair share and certainly more than they ever deserved at the hands of the American government and its hideous head-lopping takfiri-jihâdist proxies. Backed up by the war propaganda and manufactured consent from inane mouthpieces of the CIA like 60 Minutes, the Biden Administration seems as hellbent on continuing this revolting, heinous, profligate, destructive war on sæcular and Christian Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians in the Middle East. Biden also seems to be continuing in Trump’s determination to harass, beleaguer and starve the people of countries like Venezuela and Haiti. And still he continues to ramp up a strategically-insane new cold war with both China and Russia.

(It goes without saying that on life issues, Biden stands foursquare against his own church, and with the most radically-libertine elements within his own party that seek to trample down all legal humane considerations for unborn and even recently-born children. Again, though, this issue is so politically-polarised as a culture-war wedge that it is impossible to expect anything productive in policy to result from voting one way or another on it. Republicans continue to fund Planned Parenthood, for example.)

Biden is currently batting zero in terms of his actions in the fields of policy that I pinned my vote to this time around. That isn’t to say, by the way, that he isn’t undoing some of the damage to American infrastructure and the mechanisms of government that Trump did. But those gains are as ephemeral as the executive orders and signing statements that enacted them, and they can be blown away with the next shift of the electoral weathervane. But on the issues that can sway significant portions of the middle America that has remained so alienated in politics in the past two election cycles, Biden is either doing nothing or worse than nothing. I take no pleasure in saying this, since many of the options that are looming on the horizon when democratic legitimacy collapses in this country are far more horrifying than the banality of Biden’s evil, but these things needed to change long ago if we are to have any hope of recovery as a nation.

23 February 2021

Holy New Hieromartyr Seraphim Chichagov of Leningrad

Saint Seraphim of Leningrad

The eleventh of December [N.C.] is also the Orthodox feast day of the holy hieromartyr and sufferer under the Bolshevik yoke, Saint Seraphim of Leningrad. I plan to be paying careful attention to some of these ones who have been glorified by the Russian Church in the wake of the fall of Communism, both because they stood bravely for the faith during a time of intense persecution, and because they have unfortunately been coopted by ideological elements particularly in parts of the Russian ‘far diaspora’ which they would likely find objectionable. Saint Seraphim was a devoted follower of Saint John of Kronstadt, and held fast to the same fervent love of Christ over any ideology. That said, he insisted on love of neighbour in such a way that renders him a problem for any apologist for an earthly ideology. His prophetic words were issued more against the modernising, industrial-capitalist society that was breeding the Bolsheviks, against a Russian society that had lost its unique and vital and God-loving spirit, than against the Bolsheviks themselves.

Saint Seraphim [Ru. Серафим] was born Leonid Mikhailovich Chichagov, on the ninth of January [O.C.], 1856 in the city of Saint Petersburg. He came from an illustrious military family, and most of the male members of his extended family had served in the Russian armed forces. His father, Mikhail Nikiforovich, was a Colonel in the artillery corps. Admiral Pavel Vasil’evich Chichagov and his father, the famed Arctic explorer Admiral Vasilii Yakovlevich Chichagov were members of Saint Seraphim’s extended family.

Young Leonid Mikhailovich followed in his family’s footsteps and joined the Imperial Page Corps. Immediately upon graduating he, like his father, became an artillery officer and saw action in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 (the same which concluded at San Stefano and resulted in Bulgarian independence), where he took part in nearly every major engagement, and fought with distinction. After the war he was made responsible for organising aid and medical care to war orphans, veterans and military families who had suffered losses. This assignment awakened his pity, and furthered his desire to study medicine. It was in this capacity that he met with a local priest, Saint John of Kronstadt – a meeting that influenced the entire course of his remaining life.

Leonid met and courted another young aristocrat, Natal’ya Dochturova, and married her when he was twenty-three years old. The two of them had four daughters together. He was not, however, a ‘freethinker’ following the spirit of the times, and even though he was an aristocrat he made sure that he himself, along with his wife and daughters, strictly observed the Orthodox prayers and fasts at home. He visited France and made a tour of the artillery units there, reporting on his findings to his superiors. He also began his medical studies in earnest, and conducted researches into applied herbalism in military field medicine.

Leonid Chichagov retired from active service in 1891, moved his family to Moscow, and – under Saint John’s advice and blessing – entered seminary in preparation to enter the priesthood. After two years of prayer and study, Leonid was ordained a priest at the Moscow Church of the Twelve Apostles. His first years as a priest were very difficult, however, as his wife Natal’ya suffered from an illness that claimed her life in 1895. Father Leonid had her buried in the Diveevo Monastery graveyard.

Much of Fr Leonid’s efforts in those early years were invested in his work on an ecclesiastical history of the Diveevo Monastery, and in particular his scholarly treatment of Seraphim of Sarov, which figured out to be the most important factor in that holy man’s glorification in Russian Orthodoxy. Saint Seraphim Chichagov considered this history of Diveevo to be one of his life’s most important monastic obediences, and in historical terms it is certainly one of his most significant works. Here is what he himself had to say about it:
After many years of being in the civil service, I became a priest in a small church located behind the Rumyantsev Museum. I decided to visit the Sarov monastery, the place of Venerable Seraphim’s spiritual struggles. I spent a few days in prayer and, while staying there, visited all of the memorable sites related to Venerable Seraphim’s life. From there, I moved to the Diveyevo monastery, which I liked a lot and where Venerable Seraphim, who cared so much about its nuns, was deeply loved. The Hegumenia received me warmly; we had lengthy conversations and she mentioned in passing that there were three monastics still alive who remembered the venerable father. They were two nun elders and nun Pelagia (born Paraskevi, Pasha). I was escorted to Pasha’s dwelling. As soon as I entered, Pasha, who was resting on her bed (she was really old and ailing by then), exclaimed: “It is so good you came, I have been waiting for you: Venerable Seraphim asked me to tell you that you have to report to the Emperor that the time has come to uncover his relics and announce his glorification.” I retorted that I have no social status to be accepted by the Emperor and relay to him in person what she has just told me. To that, Pasha responded: “I do not know anything as I am just the messenger delivering the Venerable one’s words.” Soon afterwards, I left the Diveyevo monastery. On my way back to Moscow, I kept coming back to what Pasha had told me. All of a sudden, a thought pierced my mind: I could write down all the nuns’ memories of Venerable Seraphim. I could also find other contemporaries and let them share their stories about him, or delve into the Sarov and Diveyevo monastery archives to find everything relating to his life and events that happened after his death. I could systematize all the memoirs, factual data and archival documents and materials chronologically, presenting a complete picture of the venerable father’s life and ascetic endeavors and their meaning for the religious life of the people. This work could then be printed and gifted to the Emperor thus fulfilling the venerable father’s will that Pasha so expressly delivered to me. My resolve was further cemented by the fact that the Tsar’s family, over their evening tea, would customarily share spiritual readings. I therefore hoped my book would be one of them. That is how an idea of writing the “Chronicle” was conceived.
Fr Leonid left his four daughters in the charge of a family friend, and discharged his duties to them for care and education. He also retired from the military chaplaincy. Having put his worldly affairs in order, he left the world in order to become a monk, and was tonsured with the monastic name of Seraphim, after the same Saint Seraphim of Sarov upon whose life he had lavished so much obedient attention. This happened at Trinity-Sergius Lavra in Moscow on the fourteenth of August, 1898. A year later, in 1899, he was appointed by the Russian Church to become the abbot of a run-down monastic house in Suzdal, the monastery of St Evfemii. He held this office for five years. Abbot Seraphim’s sound sense, administrative skill, and heartfelt love for the monks caused that monastery to flourish again, both materially and spiritually, for a time prior to the Revolution.

At this time he was given a vision of Seraphim of Sarov, whom he saw as though he were still alive. The saint thanked Archimandrite Seraphim for the chronicle of his life and of the life of the Diveevo Monastery, and then bade him ask whatever he would desire for his work. But the archimandrite merely held him and told him that so great was his rejoicing, that he desired nothing more than to be with him always. Seraphim gave him a nod and then vanished, after which Archimandrite Seraphim understood that he had been given a vision.

After this, the Archimandrite Seraphim began working in small steps toward the glorification of his namesake, of whom he had received a vision. Having listened to Archimandrite Seraphim’s discourse on the many virtues and the saintly character of Seraphim of Sarov, Tsar Nikolai II ultimately authorised a commission to conduct an examination of Seraphim of Sarov’s cause, and appointed the Archimandrite Seraphim to coordinate provisions for the pilgrims who would appear at the glorification. The uncovering of Seraphim of Sarov’s relics occurred on the twenty-ninth of January, 1903, and his glorification took place on the seventeenth of July the same year.

In April of 1905, Seraphim was consecrated a bishop of Sukhumi in the Dormition Cathedral in Moscow. The monastic father dedicated himself totally to the service of his flock, no matter where he went. In short order he became the bishop of Orël in 1906, and then the bishop of Chișinău in Moldova in 1908. His service in Moldova in particular is warmly and fondly remembered. Again he displayed his remarkable administrative skills, good sense and warm pastoral care for the people of Moldova, and a see that had been poor and underserved was put into good order and transformed from the ground up in the spirit of Christ.

It is while Saint Seraphim (Chichagov) was serving as bishop of Chișinău that he demonstrated his amazing spiritual insight and prophetically foresaw the revolution which was to come, which would engulf Russia and do horrendous damage to the Church. Although Russia was in a period of material flourishing, Saint Seraphim saw no cause for rejoicing. Within the Church Seraphim saw moral complacency, lax discipline, abuse of alcohol, corruption and collusion with money and power. He grieved to see that the spirit of capitalism had infected even the bishops and the clergy. He foresaw even that the common folk would revolt against the Church, and that the Church had missed its moment to repent and to call the state to repentance:
Everything has fallen apart. Educated society has lost all understanding of what Christianity is. Every day I can see before my eyes the ongoing corruption of our clergy. There is no hope at all that they will come to reason or understand their condition. Everywhere is drunkenness, debauchery, simony, extortion, and secular interests. The last remaining believers are trembling with repugnance over the condition of their clergy. And there is no one to finally realize just what brink of destruction the Church is standing on, or what is happening. The opportune time was missed. A disease of the spirit has taken over the entire state organism. The moment of recovery cannot recur, and the clergy is rushing headlong into an abyss, having no strength or desire to stop the process. Just one more year, just a little while, and there won’t even be simple folk left around us. They will all rise up and reject such insane and repulsive leaders. And what will happen to the state? It will perish along with us. It no longer makes any difference who is in the Synod, who is the procurator, what seminaries and academies there are—our agony and death are near.
Saint Seraphim had a rare gift for seeing beneath the surface of events and understanding the root causes. Similarly to Saint Andrei of Ufa and Saint John of Kronstadt themselves, Saint Seraphim was neither impressed nor cowed by displays of wealth and power. And – laudably for one born into the nobility, as he was! – he understood that the strength of the Church lay in the ‘simple folk’, not among the erudite and foreign-educated.

In 1912, Saint Seraphim was transferred to the see of Tver. In February of 1917 Saint Seraphim voiced his disapproval of the overthrow of Tsar Nikolai II and the subsequent social transformations that had accompanied the revolution, and he was therefore marked by the Bolsheviks as an enemy. After the October Revolution he was exiled from Tver. Patriarch Saint Tikhon attempted, unsuccessfully, to transfer the saintly bishop away from Tver and into Poland, but he was arrested by the NKVD in 1921 and sent into exile again in Archangelsk in 1923. He returned to Moscow the following year, but was soon involved in struggles against the Renovationist clergy who had taken control of the Church. He retired for a brief while to Shuya’s Resurrection Cathedral at the invitation of the abbess there; then he served as a bishop in the Leningrad diocæse where his presence served to bolster the faithful of the Church against the Sergianist compromise. He was forced into retirement in 1933 and sent into the countryside by the Soviet authorities. In 1937, as an ailing, elderly man, he was thrown into prison. A month later, the bedridden Seraphim had to be carried out on a stretcher to be shot by the NKVD at Butovo, and in this way he attained to the glory of martyrdom and the company of the saints. He was glorified by the Church of Russia on the twenty-third of February, 1997, sixty years after his death.

Saint Seraphim (Chichagov) is another one of the Russian New Martyrs whose legacy is quite a bit more complex, and much richer and deeper in its holiness, than many who venerate him (particularly abroad) appear to realise. Although he did not approve of the Revolution, it is clear that his prophetic gift made him much more a critic of the prevailing order prior to the Revolution than of the predictable situation that succeeded it. He did not once turn against the ‘simple folk’, and he is certainly not a straightforward ally of those who would attempt to rebuild a ‘white’ status quo ante in Russia today. Holy hierarch Seraphim, steadfast defender of Orthodoxy and bold speaker of the truth in good times and in evil ones, pray unto Christ our God that our souls may be saved!
Apolytikion for Saint Seraphim (Chichagov) of Leningrad, Tone 4:

By sharing in the ways of the Apostles,
You became a successor to their throne.
Through the practice of virtue, you found the way
To divine contemplation, O inspired one of God;
By teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith,
Even to the shedding of your blood.
Hieromartyr Seraphim, entreat Christ God to save our souls.

Saviour Transfiguration Cathedral, St Petersburg, Russia

17 February 2021

Venerable Roman of Tărnovo, disciple of Saint Teodosii

Saint Roman of Tărnovo

Today in the Holy Orthodox Church, the seventeenth of February, is the feast day of Saint Roman, the disciple of Saint Teodosii the Hesychast of Tărnovo, who was in turn one of the disciples of Saint Grēgorios of Sinai, the father of the mediæval hesychast movement in the Orthodox Church. Much of the information that we have on the life and deeds of Saint Roman the Hesychast comes from the hagiography of his mentor and spiritual father.

Saint Roman [Bg. Роман] was born in the early 1300s in Tărnovo, the capital of Bulgaria. His family came from one of the Turkic Old Bulghar stems which formed the basis for the first Bulgarian state – the Old Bulghars were related to the Bulghar Khanate to which Saint Abraham of the Volga belonged, and from which descend the Kazan Tatar, Bashkir and Chuvash peoples of Russia. His parents raised him to be a nobleman, but he had little interest in the martial disciplines of his upbringing. Instead he retired to a monastery in Tărnovo and became a novice.

Saint Teodosii arrived in Tărnovo to beg the help for the second time of Tsar Ivan Aleksandăr, that he might put to flight the Muslim bandits who were raiding the monastery of Saint Grēgorios in Paroria. When he heard that Saint Teodosii was in Tărnovo, the young novice Roman, who was seeking a deeper and holier life of quietude, came out from his monastery to meet the elder hesychast and threw himself at his feet, begging to be taken as a disciple. If Teodosii did not accept him, Roman pleaded, he would go and be slaughtered by some wild beast or throw himself from the rocks of Tărnovo – deeper than the thirst of the deer for spring water, was Roman’s thirst for Teodosii’s wisdom and guidance in Christ. Well might we imagine that the elder Teodosii still saw a bit of noble arrogance in these rash pronouncements. But the elder, who was acquainted with Roman from his youth, took pity on the lad, and brought Roman back with him to Paroria. Saint Grēgorios also took a liking to the young Bulgarian nobleman, and agreed to keep him on at his monastery.

At Paroria, Roman distinguished himself by a superlative meekness and obedience to his elders in all things, obeying them in imitation of how Christ obeyed His Father. He stayed at Paroria monastery until Saint Grēgorios reposed in 1347. The monks sought to make Teodosii their abbot, but Teodosii, who had no desire to lead men in a monastic community, made plans to leave for Mount Athos in secret. Roman discovered his plans and begged to be allowed to come with him. On Mount Athos the two monks studied and struggled to apply in their lives of prayer the methods of hesychasm. Again, however, they were driven from their home by the Turks, and they fled again into Bulgaria. Tsar Ivan Aleksandăr again welcomed them warmly, and gave Teodosii and Roman a plot of land at Kilifarevo where they could set up a hermitage.

Three years Saints Teodosii and Roman laboured at Kilifarevo, and through their earnest hard work and life of prayer and vigil the hermitage prospered. What’s more, they could not keep the secret of their presence from the folk of Bulgaria for long, and soon the hermitage was thronged with people from all walks of life seeking help and advice, which they did their best to give. And what’s more, many young men of Bulgaria sought to join Saint Teodosii and join the hermitage as novices and disciples. Soon enough there were fifty men living at Kilifarevo, and Teodosii and Roman were compelled to construct a monastery there to house them all. Despite Saint Teodosii’s determination not to become an abbot, God clearly had called him to be there.

Throughout all his endeavours, Saint Roman had been Saint Teodosii’s tireless and uncomplaining companion, helpmeet and supporter, and engaged in polemics against Judaïsers and anti-hesychasts in Bulgaria. Saint Teodosii eventually retired to Constantinople, and left Saint Roman as his prior in charge of the monastic brotherhood – he reposed in Constantinople in the year 1363. By this time, Saint Teodosii’s and Saint Roman’s monastic community had been established at Ustieto near Tărnovo, where the monastery was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Here Saint Roman continued to promote hesychasm and to carefully shepherd his monastic flock faithfully as his mentor would have done.

During his last years Saint Roman developed a chronic illness that we recognise today as whooping cough. However, he did not alter in any way his prayer routine or his vigils. He slept only during the dawn hour, keeping the whole night for prayer. The one thing he did in response to this malady was to alter his daily fast only to include one small daily cup of wine. He did not complain or pay attention to his illness, but continued to advise the monks and give spiritual comfort to the laity for as long as God would allow. In the end, Saint Roman was given to know by God when he would repose. He gathered all of his monastic brothers around him, told them how much he loved them, exhorted them to continue to strive for Christ and to imitate one another in meekness and kindness and obedience, and celebrated the Liturgy with them one last time. He reposed at peace with God and with his brothers on the seventeenth of February. The monks grieved long over his loss, and buried him with all the honours due to a beloved spiritual father and abbot of their house. Holy and venerable Roman, steadfast student of the prayer of the heart, pray unto Christ our God that our souls may be saved!
Apolytikion for Saint Roman of Tărnovo, Tone 8:

In you, Father, we have an example of how to care for our salvation:
You took up the Cross and followed Christ,
And taught us to despise the flesh for it is transient,
And care for the soul which is immortal.
Therefore, O Venerable Roman, your spirit rejoices together with the angels!
Holy Trinity Monastery at Ustieto, Bulgaria

12 February 2021

Happy Year of the Metal Ox

I wish all of my gentle readers here a happy Chinese New Year of the Metal Ox! 新年快樂,恭喜發財,心想事成,牛氣衝天!

I did end up reading some of the Yijing-inspired prognostications for the year, which in the lunar cycle features the hexagrams gen 艮 (keeping still, mountain) and li 離 (the clinging, fire), which when combined form the twenty-second seal bi 賁 (grace). The judgement for this seal is:
GRACE has success.
In small matters
It is favourable to undertake something.
The image associated with this seal is:
Fire at the foot of the mountain:
The image of GRACE.
Thus does the superior man proceed
When clearing up current affairs.
But he dare not decide controversial issues in this way.
Coming out of quarantine, as I am sure many of us will do this coming year, this does indeed seem like a good year for beginning with small ventures. The Yijing here sounds almost Tolkienian, or even more broadly Christian, in its exhortation: to begin with the small undertakings, and to do them with grace. May this new lunar year indeed be a new start, and may God bless the world in it.

11 February 2021

Holy Greatmartyr Georgi the Younger of Sofia

Saint Georgi the Younger of Sofia

The eleventh of February is, in the Orthodox Church, the commemoration of the great Bulgarian martyr Saint Georgi of Kratovo, who is also known as Saint Georgi the Younger of Sofia. He died as a martyr for the Orthodox faith under the Ottoman Turks, and his death heralded a series of struggles within Bulgaria for national liberation from the Turks throughout the following two centuries. Saint Georgi the Younger was commemorated with particular attention by Bulgaria’s historian-saint and hagiographer Saint Paisii Hilendarski. His cultus became particularly important in the 1700s and 1800s as a result of Saint Paisii’s efforts, and also as a mark of Bulgaria’s growing popular awareness of a national identity.

Saint Georgi [Bg. Георги, Srb. Ђорђе, Mk. Ѓорѓи] was born near the end of the 1400s in the town of Kratovo, which now lies in North Macedonia; however it seems he lived much of his early life in the Bulgarian town of Sredets, which is now a neighbourhood in the capital of Sofia. This may have been on account of a desire on the part of Georgi’s father Ivan, to avoid the young Georgi from being enslaved to the Ottoman state, conscripted into the Janissary corps and converted to Islâm. His hagiography suggests that he may have been an only child, born to his parents Ivan and Mariya in their old age after much prayer. He was named after the Greatmartyr George of Lydda, indicating that he may have been born in April. His father and mother were of the stock of skilled urban craftsmen, and Georgi too took up a trade, and became a deft silversmith. He received a good education and was literate, reading with keen attention the Holy Scriptures. He lived a blameless life in Sredets and was respected and honoured by many.

So much so, in fact, that the Turkish authorities took it upon themselves to recruit the young smith – perhaps thinking that if they could make him convert to Islâm that many other townsmen would follow. They tried to put a fez on his head and make him pray in the Muslim way, but he refused to do this and threw the hat upon the ground. The Turks then beat him mercilessly and dragged him before the vali, who was charmed by young Georgi’s upright, prepossessing manner. Taking a gentler tack, the vali promised Georgi great honours and wealth from the hand of Sultân Selim I himself, if he should convert to Islâm. But Georgi refused all of these promises and boldly proclaimed his belief in Jesus Christ. The vali ordered Georgi to be punished by falaka, and the soles of his feet beaten painfully with rods. This is a cruel form of torture that is still used in modern-day Turkey.

Georgi refused to give in, however, and continued to confess Christ although the tortures increased in severity and in cruelty. The Turkish authorities had him paraded through the streets to ritually humiliate him, but Georgi called upon the name of the Lord to help him. At last, the vali ordered that he be publicly executed by burning at the stake, and the authorities prepared a stake and pyre in the middle of Sredets, onto which they threw the greatmartyr still living, on the eleventh of February, 1515. In this way he attained the victory and entered the company of saints. The Turks burned his body, and as he was burning the Turks threw dogs onto the fire to prevent the Christians from finding and venerating his remains. Yet by a strange wonder, the body of the greatmartyr Georgi was not consumed by the flames, and the Christians of Sredets were able to find his body on the pyre unscathed. They brought it into the Church of St Marina secretly by night, and buried it with great respect and reverence.

On the twenty-sixth of May that same year, the relics of Saint Georgi were uncovered and translated into a fine reliquary wrought for the purpose by Georgi’s fellow smiths in fine metal, who now had particular cause to honour one of their own. This reliquary was brought into the nearby Dragalevski Monastery of the Mother of God of Vitosha, where it is still venerated every year, both on the day of his martyrdom and on the day of his translation. As mentioned before, Georgi’s cultus became important after his hagiography was committed to writing by Saint Paisii of Hilendar. He also became a focus for the Bulgarian movement for liberation and a model of bravery and insistence upon the truth for the Bulgarian freedom fighters. Holy greatmartyr Georgi, bold athlete for Christ and witness to the Truth of the Incarnation, pray unto Christ our God that our souls may be saved!
Apolytikion for Saint Georgi the Younger of Sofia, Tone 3:

Your holy martyr Georgi, O Lord,
Through his sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God.
For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries,
And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through his intercessions, save our souls!
Dragalevski Monastery of the Mother of God of Vitosha, Bulgaria