John Kulikos was born in the Greek district of Epirus, in the city of Ioannina. His parents were pious, but he was orphaned at an early age, and he went to Constantinople. With the means left him by his parents, he built a small stall in the city bazaar and was occupied with trade.
He loved to work, he honorably filled all his orders, and his business was successful. However, his soul did not yearn for earthly blessings, but for the Kingdom of Heaven.
John lived during difficult times. Constantinople was under the dominion of the Turks, and Christians were subjected to oppressions. Many Christian tradesmen and merchants went over to the Mohamedan religion. John reproached them for their betrayal of Christ, and he also sustained the unwavering in their faith. The apostates were filled with hatred for John, and they desired his ruin. The saint knew this, but was not afraid. He was willing to suffer for Christ.
On Great and Holy Friday he went to his spiritual Father and asked his blessing to seek martyrdom. The priest counseled the youth to examine himself and to prepare himself by fasting and prayer, so that at the time of torture he would not deny Christ. John prayed ardently to the Lord to strengthen him. At night on Great and Holy Saturday he saw himself in a dream, standing in a fiery furnace and singing praises to the Lord. Interpreting this vision as an indication to go to martyrdom, John received the Holy Mysteries and asked the priest's blessing.
When John arrived at the market, the vexed tradesmen began to reproach him that he had promised to renounced Christ, but that he was not fulfilling his word. In reply, the confessor declared that he was a Christian and had never renounced, nor would he ever renounce Christ.
Then the envious merchants had him arrested. The judge tried to persuade John to accept the religion of Mohamed, for he respected him as a skilled master craftsman. But the John steadfastly confessed himself a Christian. For several days, they wearied him with hunger and thirst, and beat him without mercy. They sentenced the martyr to be burned alive.
John met his sentence with joy. When they led him to the blazing fire, he went boldly into the midst of the flames. The torturers, seeing that he was prepared to die in the fire, pulled him out and beheaded him with the sword (+ 1526). They then threw the martyr's head and body into the fire.
Christians gathered up the bones of the martyr which remained from the fire, and reverently brought them to the cathedral church.
Propers for John of Epirus - Confessor and Martyr
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr John of Epirus with the virtue of constancy in faith and truth: Grant us in like manner for love of thee to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - 2 Esdras 2:42-48.
I ESDRAS saw upon the mount Sion a great people, whom I could not number, and they all praised the Lord with songs. And in the midst of them there was a young man of a high stature, taller than all the rest, and upon every one of their heads he set crowns, and was more exalted; which I marvelled at greatly. So I asked the angel, and said, Sir, what are these? He answered and said unto me, These be they that have put off the mortal clothing, and put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God: now are they crowned, and receive palms. Then said I unto the angel. What young person is it that crowneth them, and giveth them palms in their hands? So he answered and said unto me, It is the Son of God, whom they have confessed in the world. Then began I greatly to commend them that stood so stiffly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said unto me, Go thy way, and tell my people what manner of things, and how great wonders of the Lord thy God, thou hast seen.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 10:16-22.
BEHOLD, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall he brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
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