"Saint Neomartyr Michael Paknanas The Gardener"
The Life & Martyrdom of Saint Neomartyr Michael Paknanas The Gardener. By LAMBROS K. SKONZOU Theologian - Professor.
In the large group of New Martyrs, young children, boys and girls, who preferred to suffer, shed their blood and lose their lives for their faith in Christ, have a prominent place. One of these beautiful Martyrs was the holy Neomartyr Michael Paknanas the Gardener.
He was born in Athens, enslaved by the Turks, around 1751 to poor, but pious parents. The inhumane oppression by the non-religious rulers, as well as the great poverty of his parents, did not allow him to learn letters. But he was spiritually educated in Christ by his simple-minded parents, who inspired him to adhere to Orthodoxy, as the only true faith. He stayed with his parents, helping them cultivate foreign gardens.
After a few years his father died suddenly. Michael bought a donkey and toured the neighborhoods of Athens selling manure for the gardens of the Athenians. He also often traded, carrying supplies from the city to the villagers of Attica. His work was laborious and dangerous, but he praised God every day, who earned his bread honestly and was an orthodox Christian.
In his time, a gigantic operation to Islamize the enslaved Christians by the Ottoman power was in full swing. And this is because those who converted to Islam, along with their faith, were also losing their national consciousness. Michael, an eighteen-year-old boy, had become a target of the Turkish authorities. One day when Michael was entering the city with his horse, he met a detachment of guards, people of the local Voivode (provincial).
They had been targeting him for a long time in order to force him to convert to Islam. Illiterate and simple-minded as he was, they thought he would be persuaded.
They hatched a demonic plot to capture him. They slandered him that he was allegedly carrying gunpowder with the animal to the armed thieves Greeks of the surrounding mountains. He was arrested and locked in a dungeon.
They visited him every day and tried with flattery and threats to "make him a Muslim". To exchange the Gospel with the Koran, Christ with Muhammad. But he stood unconvinced. The Orthodox faith had deep roots in his soul and it was not easy for them to uproot it. A long time passed, without achieving their goal. Michael did not give in.
Then they started the hooligans, telling them that their patience had run out and that they would kill him if Islam was not embraced. A devout Christian named George feared that eighteen-year-old Michael would bend and convert. So he bribed the guards and asked to visit him. She found him, not panicked, but calm and on his knees praying with tears and chanting hymns of the Church. He got into a conversation with him and was trying to support him and deepen his faith in Christ. To encourage him to accept the martyrdom and not to cower in the face of torture and death. George embraced the Martyr, embraced him and left.
The torture continued daily. They beat him mercilessly for hours and he shouted with all the power of his soul: "I'm not a Muslim, I'm not a Muslim; I'm a Christian"!
They presented him to the Judge. He began to offer him positions, honors and riches if he would change his faith. Michael repeated his stereotypical denial: "I'm not Muslim, I'm not Muslim; I'm a Christian"! After that the horrors began, but he remained firm in his faith in Christ. When the Judge saw that he could not persuade him, he handed him over to a beastly man, Calopassias of Ioannina, who was in those days in Athens.
That bloodthirsty man was the fear and terror of the prisoners. He hoped that the mere sight of him might bend his refusal to convert.
Michael stood before him with unusual courage. He ostentatiously ignored his orders and buffoonery and shouted with all his might, to be heard as far as possible: "I'm not a Muslim"! After that he was taken to the Turkish judge to be tried. But even to him, his only excuse was his phrase: "I don't do things according to Islam"!
He, full of rage and anger, made the decision: death by beheading! Michael heard his death sentence with unprecedented calmness! The armed executioners grabbed him and dragged him to the place of execution.
He followed them happily, as if he were going to a festival! He dismissed every trace of fear and anxiety, because he knew that a few moments separated him from his meeting with the Lord Christ.
On the road, he would say to any Christians he met: "forgive me, brothers, and may God forgive you"! They looked at him fearfully, because of the presence of the Turks, but with their gaze they gave him courage. When they arrived at the place of execution, at the site of the ruins of Olympian Zeus, Michael knelt down and prayed fervently. Then he bowed his head and waited for the killing sword. But the faithless executioner snatched him from his hair and put the sword to his throat, believing that the Martyr would cower in the face of death and deny Christ.
But he shouted at him: "Strike for the sake of faith"! The executioner began to slowly and torturously cut his throat, hoping that at the last moment they would be converted. The blood was flowing and the pain was horrible, but he was shouting even louder: "Strike for my faith"!
The ferocious executioner, full of indignation, with a mighty blow, cut off his honorable head, and his soul flew to the heavens!
It was July 9 of the year 1770, or 1771, according to different sources. Someone carved the inscription on the first pillar of the ancient church: "1771 July 9, Paknanas Michalis was beheaded".
His memory is celebrated on July 9.
In the area of Neos Kosmos, in Athens in Greece in the Holy Church of the Ascension of the Lord (Lagoumitzi and Delacroix streets) there is a chapel of the saint. At that point, according to tradition, his gardens were located.
Translated from Source: https://enromiosini.gr