The two hundred years of constant attack by the Saracens, the Vikings, and the
Magyars, bringing in turn the Crusades, the fourth of which in 1204 so weakened
the Byzantine Empire that finally in 1453 the Ottoman Turks ran roughshod over
a once invincible Christian Empire. Pope Urban II's earnest dram of a unified
Christendom died with the Byzantine Empire, but he had the consolation of drawing
from the last of the crusades the unity of those who had been converted in prior
years. For the next two centuries the only thing that stood between European Christianity
and the Ottoman hordes was the weakened Byzantine Empire but for whom the light
of Jesus Christ would have been considerably dimmed, if not extinguished.
The brief life story of a humble layman of invincible Christian spirit typifies the character of a small nation whose remarkable religious endurance is surpassed only by their glorious history. This young's man name is known to us as Nicholas the Neomartyr, who was born in the late sixteenth century in Metsov, Epiros, Greece, at a time when more than two centuries of Ottoman oppression had scarred the identity of the Greeks and to some extent their unswerving faith.
When his Christian parents had died, Nicholas found himself removed from his village to be apprenticed as a baker in the employ of a wily Turk who managed to draw the impressionable youth away from Christianity and live as a Muslim. As he grew to manhood, however, he not only abandoned his employer but returned to his home town and to Christianity. In abject penitence he sought out the village priest to whom he confessed his despair in having so shabbily denied the Savior, offering no excuse for his defection but pleading for the Lord's forgiveness. A few hours with the kindly priest, whom he visited daily, brought the young man the conviction that he had been forgiven, and he went about his way with more than enough Christian spirit in his heart to make up for the lost years in Trikkala.
Nicholas turned t woodcutting, a labor in the great outdoors which he much preferred to the baker's oven and which he developed to far greater profit. He was thus engaged when he happened to meet his former employer who began to ply him with questions which Nicholas answered in all honesty. Realizing that he could take advantage of this turn of events, the crafty Turk offered to keep secret the return of Nicholas to Christianity, which was grievous offense to the Muslims, in exchange for a free supply of wood to meet the needs of the baker's ovens. It was a small price to pay for one's live, the woodcutter was advised.
Aside from resenting the blackmailing attempt by his former employer, Nicholas deplored the idea of sharing with his enemy an extorted secret which was little better than disavowing the Messiah all over again. Making no bargain, the young Christian made straight for his parish priest who was so concerned for the safety of the woodcutter that he was advised to run away into obscurity. When Nicholas was further advised that his staying meant sure death, unless under torture he returned to Islam, he stated that if he were put to trial, he would die before he would reject Christ.
The inevitable happened when Nicholas was seized on charges of treason, among other things, and when the atrocities had run their course with no change in the mutilated prisoner's heart, he was put to death by fire on 16 May 1617 when but twenty-six years old. The mortal remains of this loyal servant of the Lord were recovered by a roofer who walled up the relics in a house he was helping to build so there would be no further vilification of his memory.
A man named Melandros bought the house after beholding a shaft of light beaming on the spot wherein the remains of Nicholas lay. Melandros had a brother who was monk at the fabulous Monastery of Barlaam at Meteora to whom he brought the precious remains he dug out of the walled area. Since then many miracles have been attributed to Nicholas of Metsovo, who to this day abides in the spiritual bastion of Barlaam, whose only access is by basket pulled aloft to dizzying heights by hands daily clasped in prayer.
The text cited October 2004 from the URL below
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