Orthodox Saint of the Day‘s Today’s Memory
St Georges Day (Bulgaria)
Originally shared by Orthodox Saint of the Day
April 23 – New Martyr Lazarus of Bulgaria
Lazarus was named after St. Lazarus of the Four Days, whom the Lord raised from the dead (and this name is a Hellenized version of the venerable name “Eleazar” which means “God has helped”). This Lazarus is much honoured in Bulgarian culture being linked with the coming of spring. Groups of Bulgarian girls called “lazarky” visit homes on Lazarus’ Saturday singing songs and wishing blessings upon them.
New Martyr Lazarus was born in the village of Debel Dyal near the city of Gabrovo in Bulgaria. Members of his family live there till this day. He found work as a shepherd near the town of Soma in the western part of Turkey. Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. One day a Turkish lady was passing by the place where Lazarus was resting while his dogs guarded the sheep. The dogs’ barking woke him and he rushed to ensure that the lady would not be hurt by the dogs in their zeal to protect their flock.
The lady went home with a small tear in her clothing. She explained this to her husband by saying that it was Lazarus who had attacked her. The enraged man rushed off to kill the imagined offender of his wife’s honour. Not knowing him, he fired at Lazarus’ companion, badly wounding but not killing him. Upon learning of his error the man became afraid that he might face charges for his attack on an innocent man. He stirred up members of his wife’s family to accuse Lazarus who was arrested and jailed in preparation for a trial.
The government official in charge of the matter decided to resolve it by obtaining the conversion of Lazarus to Islam. He authorized the use of force in case Lazarus refused. Lazarus prayed to St. George for strength as it was the eve of his Feastday. He patiently and bravely endured horrible tortures and was left for dead. However the Agha (Turkish official) found him still alive the next day (St. George’s Day) and thought that the power of God might be at work. He offered the young man (Lazarus was 28) gifts and honours if he would only convert.
But Lazarus firmly replied: “I worship and serve One God in Three Persons. Just as I was baptized in His Name and became a Christian, so in His Name I am prepared and have decided to die and nothing in this world can change my mind!” He was then sentenced to hang. As a sign of his resolve Lazarus placed the noose around his neck himself. Imitating our Lord he prayed for his tormentors. Many miracles occurred from his Relics. A life size Icon of the New Martyr, Lazarus the Shepherd, is to be found in the Rylsky Monastery in Bulgaria.
The word “martyr” comes from the Greek and means “one who bears testimony”. Lazarus bore faithful testimony to the courage and compassion of Christ which fills those who are united with Him – a compassion which opens the door to repentance, reconciliation and transformation for the ones inflicting the hurt. This is dramatically different from the way the word is often used – or rather abused – in which the memory of “martyrs” is invoked to fuel vengeance, conflict and violence.
May St. Lazarus, along with countless other martyrs, by his example and prayers, bring to repentance all who give way to the passions of hatred and lust for power, and so help to bring about the golden and eternal Messianic age of true peace and harmony to which he bears costly and persuasive testimony. Amen.
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