(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Myron, whose account is found in Volume 1 of the series.)
Saint Myron of Crete
In the fateful year of 1775, when America was about to assume an identity of its own, the ancient land of Greece was several years away from its return to normalcy after more than three centuries of Turkish tyranny had failed to separate Greece from an identity with its ancient glory and its hallowed Greek Orthodox faith in Jesus Christ. Events leading to revolution are marked by the deaths of men who were complete patriots, but because of the religious overtones in the Greek cause, men died not only for country but for Jesus Christ, as a result of which out of the many patriots have come saints of the Church.
It was in the year 1775 that the Neomartyr Myron was born in Crete and shared the misery of the rest of the islanders under the brutal conquest of the Turks, who seemed to have a special contempt for those living off the mainland. The remoteness of the island attracted the worst of the enemies of Christianity and democracy, bringing much more cruelty and religious persecution than could be found in the major cities under the best of a bad lot. Crete over the centuries had witnessed fleets of various countries spilling conquerors on its shores, but as inured as they were to hardships, the islanders felt the Turkish infestation more keenly than most realize.
Myron was born into a family who bore up under the oppression with no detectable loss of their Christian spirit and managed to compromise their political differences with the Turks without sacrificing one bit of their religion. Myron’s family was an extremely devout group to begin with and their misfortune served only to rally them closer to Jesus Christ and to one another. Myron himself was an exceptionally devout Christian whose fervor stemmed from genuine love for his church and for Jesus Christ. He served as cantor in his church and assisted the priest in this harassed village, giving his free time willingly to relieve suffering.
Myron applied his trade meanwhile as a tailor, operating a small shop in the business district where he was constantly under the watchful eyes of the Turks, who detested his good looks and his very obvious Christian faith. A man of peace who posed no threat to the authorities, he was nevertheless singled out by the vengeful Turks as a target for their special brand of harassment by which they sought to demonstrate the power of Islam over Christianity not with reason but with the only weapon aff rded them – brute force, coupled with guile.
Myron found himself being systematically heckled, badgered and abused with insults aimed at arousing his temper to the point of striking back, but he maintained his outward calm, mindful of the consequences if he did otherwise. When their taunts had failed to bring a response, the Turks then produced a twelve-year-old Turkish boy whom they bribed to accuse the peaceful tailor of having made improper advances. Formally charged with depravity, the innocent Christian was jailed to await trial.
In what passed for a trial, Myron protested his guilt to no avail, but in a gesture of what laughingly was called goodwill, the court offered to forgive him his lecherous behavior to come over to the side of Muslim decency. There was no mercy offered in the alternative, a prospectwhich might have weakened a lesser Christian than Myron, who vigorously defended his faith in Jesus Christ for whom he was willing to die.
The court found him guilty, as expected, but unexpectedly sentenced him to be hanged the following day, rather than subject him to torture before finally executing him. The reasoning was that the sight of a limp body at the end of a rope in the town square would be enough to frighten the Christians into a more compliant frame of mind. On the day after the trial, Myron was led to the square and, after refusing a last chance to recant, was hanged. The remorseful twelve-year-old who had falsely condemned him came forward to admit his treachery, but not until it was too late.
Myron was only twenty years old when he gave his life for the Savior, but a manifestation that he was in God’s favor brought him instant recognition after death. Hundreds stood in awe as they witnessed a ray of light descend from the sky onto the inert form of Myron, who was made a saint only a few months after he died.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.