Holy New Martyr John of Ioannina

April 18

Saint John came from Ioannina in Epirus. On the death of his parents, he went to live in Constantinople, where he had acquired a little workshop in order to work as a tailor. He lived a devout and God-pleasing life. The Turks of the neighbourhood put endless pressure on him to renounce his faith in order to acquire riches and many advantages from the Sultan. The Saint repulsed these propositions, making fun of them. Finally, the pesterings of the Turks gave birth in him to the desire to offer his life for love of Christ. He spoke of this to his confessor, who wisely dissuaded him.

When the Great Fast of 1526 arrived, he decided, as the Turks were redoubling their aggression, to take his part in the Passion of Christ. On Great and Holy Friday, he went to tell his confessor that the time had come for him; for he had, on the preceding night, seen himself dancing and praising God in a burning fiery furnace, like the Three Young Men in Babylon. Confirmed in his resolution by the priest’s blessing, he returned to his workshop, where the Turks soon returned to renew their customary attacks. But this time John answered them with a holy anger. The Muslims then threw themselves on him, striking him with sticks and stones and dragging him with great cries to the local tribunal. To the judge’s questions, the Saint replied courageously, confessing Christ and pronouncing words of disdain against Islam. He endured their tortures with thanksgiving, proclaiming in a loud voice that nothing would be able to separate him from the love of Christ.

As nothing could make him submit, the judge ordered that he be burned alive. At the intervention of Patriarch Jeremiah I (1522-45), the execution was put off until the Friday of Bright Week. The day having come, the Saint was again brought before the judge, full of a supernatural joy, and began to sing the Troparion of Easter in the midst of the Turks, who threw themselves upon him and beat him with blows. While the crowd gathered together branches and pieces of wood, he did not stop singing the Hymn of the Resurrection, and he entered the flames with joy. But the fire had scarcely begun to burn before the master of the house before which the pyre had been built chased away the crowd and put out the fire. They then took the Saint outside the city, where a larger pyre had been erected. John sprang into the flames, taking up again the Christ is Risen. Some of the Christians present offered a large sum of money to one of the Turks to shorten the Saint’s sufferings by cutting off his head. They then took his precious remains and placed them in the church of the Patriarchate. Afterwards, numerous healings were wrought by the holy water in which John’s relics had been plunged.

Source: The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Volume Four, March & April. Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike), 2003.