New Martyr Lazarus of Bulgaria

The Holy New Martyr Lazarus was from Gabrovo, Bulgaria and he was born to devout and God-loving parents in 1774. At a young age he left Gabrovo and went to Soma in Asia Minor, near Pergamon, where he became a shepherd.

One day while tending his sheep in the fields, he sat down to rest, and fell asleep. Meanwhile, a Moslem woman passed by, and was attacked by the sheep dog. Awakened by the dog's barking, Lazarus hastened to save her. The dog was calmed down and the woman was unharmed, but her dress was somewhat torn. This infuriated the woman, who immediately went home and told her husband that she had been attacked by a Christian shepherd who attempted to molest her. The enraged husband went out to look for Lazarus, but since he did not know him, he mistook another man for Lazarus, and nearly beat him to death. In order to hide his mistake, the husband had his wife's relatives go before the Turkish judge and to charge Lazarus with attempted rape.

Although Lazarus was aware of what the woman's husband planned to do, he did not attempt to hide. He knew that he was innocent, and that running away would only make him appear guilty. Therefore, on April 7, 1802, he showed up in court, where he was charged and thrown into prison.

In the meantime, the woman's relatives insisted that Lazarus must either convert to Islam or be executed for the dishonor he had inflicted upon their relative. They offered the aga a thousand grosia if he succeeded in converting Lazarus; or if the Saint refused to deny Christ, he must be sentenced to death.

In prison, saints Lazarus was beaten continuously until April 22, in an attempt to force his conversion. Orthodox Christians came and visited Lazarus to give him support and encouragement, but he requested them to leave because they were placing themselves in danger. Meanwhile, the aga grew increasingly angry because Lazarus would not convert, and the one thousand grosia seemed to be slipping through his fingers. Saint Lazarus remained steadfast in the face of torture and flattery, and so the aga confiscated his herd of forty sheep.

On Tuesday of Saint Thomas week (April 22) the aga ordered more tortures for Lazarus. After his tormentors got drunk, they began applying red-hot irons to Lazarus' body. Then they placed heavy stones upon his chest, but Lazarus still refused to submit. Instead, Lazarus entreated the Lord to help him, and he also prayed to Saint George (April 23), asking for his assistance.

Then the torturers stretched out Lazarus' tongue and applied a hot iron to it, burning the front half and cauterizing the rest. Since Lazarus was now unable to speak, they told him to use sign language when he was ready to convert. They also placed a heated iron band around his head, causing him terrible pain.

At sunset, the merchant John from Zagora, who was also a medical doctor, went to see the aga, with whom he was acquainted, because he was the physician to the aga's household. John went to the window of the prison and was able to see Lazarus sitting on the floor. Not only did he seem to be well, but he was also able to speak normally. The doctor, who was an Orthodox Christian, encouraged Lazarus to persevere until the end, and to endure everything for the love of Christ. He spoke to Lazarus in Turkish, since he did not know Bulgarian and Lazarus did not understand Greek. Lazarus assured the doctor that he would not give in, but he was afraid that the Moslems would become tired of torturing him and would just stop instead of putting him to death.

When the aga learned that Lazarus could speak, he became angry with the torturers, whom he thought had deceived him. Yet when he saw the marks of torture on the Saint's body, he was convinced that the men had done their job. After trying once more to make Lazarus convert, he heard him reject all gifts, honors, and promises of wealth if he became a Moslem. Saint Lazarus told him, "I have one God in three persons, Whom I worship and adore. I was baptized as an Orthodox Christian, and I shall die as an Orthodox Christian." Then the aga ordered that he be hanged.

On the way to the place of his execution, many Moslems mocked Lazarus for being so foolish as to give up his life for Jesus Christ. When they arrived at their destination, Saint Lazarus voluntarily placed the rope around his own neck and stood on a basket, and then the executioner kicked it from under his feet. Thus the Holy New Martyr Lazarus endured martyrdom on April 23, 1802. He was twenty-eight years old when he departed from this temporal life, and inherited everlasting life. Now, in the Kingdom of Heaven, he joins the angels and all the Saints in glorifying the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit throughout the ages.

A Church Service in honor of Saint Lazarus was composed by Saint Nikephoros of Chios (May 1). Portions of his relics can be venerated in Leimonos Monastery in Lesbos, and in the Chapel of Saint Xenia of Saint Petersburg at Mandra in Attica.