Tomorrow is my name day, also known as a feast day. It is the specific day of the year associated with my Orthodox Christian namesake, Holy New Martyr Elias Ardounis, also known as St. Elias Ardounis the Neomartyr. I refer to him as St. Elias the New.
Monday, January 31, 2011 (Feast Day)
Holy New Martyr Elias Ardounis
St. Elias Ardounis the Neomartyr
Saint Elias the New was a barber in the town of Kalamata in the Peloponnesos region of Greece and was much respected for his shrewd good sense by the Turkish officials of the place. One day, when the latter had come to see him, Elias urged them to do all they could to reduce the burden of tax on Christians, or many would be lead to deny their Christian faith and become Muslim merely so that they would be relieved financially. The discussion grew heated and Elias was carried away to the extent of declaring, almost jokingly, that he himself was inclined to deny his faith in return for a fez. One of the Turks took him at his word and handed him the headgear, whereupon poor, benighted Elias adhered to Islam in the presence of the judge and to the sorrow of the local Christians.
Not long after, he was moved to repentance and traveled to Mount Athos. There he found a spiritual father and confessed with many tears his apostasy and once again acknowledged Orthodoxy; he was also chrismated and received the Body and Blood of Christ. Elias eventually became a monk on Mount Athos, where he lead a virtuous life for eight years. However, as he could not attain peace of conscience, he received the blessing of his spiritual father to return to Kalamata to confess his Christianity, which he knew would almost certainly lead to his martyrdom.
Elias returned to Kalamata and made his presence known by walking around the bazaars of the Turks. When he was called Moustafa and questioned about why he was gone for so long, he responded he was no longer Moustafa (the Muslim name given to him at the time of his unwilling conversion) but an Orthodox Christian. He was then presented before the judge and confessed Christ in like manner. After two sessions of questioning, he was condemned to be burned to death in a slow fire. When he was thrown into flames, he was spared a burning death and suffocated almost immediately, leaving his hair, beard and monastic robes miraculously untouched by the flames. This occurred on January 31, 1686. That night a heavenly light appeared over his body, and for which it was said by the Christians that since the earthly fire could not burn him that God sent his heavenly light to do the job.
The local Christians buried his body with great devotion, and a church was later built over his tomb. His skull is in the Holy Monastery of Voulkanou in Messinia.