ST. AHMET THE CALLIGRAPHER
“The greatest of all things is the Faith ofJesus.” Crying this, 0 A,)met:. thou didst receive a great crown.
~ AHMET, the holy New Martyr, was from Constantinople, havihg been reared in the ungodliness of the Moslems
~ by his parents. By trade he was a scribe of the Great Archives. In accordance with the law of the Ottomans, since he did not have a wife in her place he had a slave, a certain woman from Russia. With her there lived another captive from Russia, an old woman who was also his slave. Both of these women were exceedingly pious.’
Now on feast days this old woman would go the the church of the Christians, and taking ant ido ron2 , she would give it also to the young woman who would eat it. The old woman also would bring her holy water which she would chink.
Whenever this occurred and Ahmet was close to her, he would perceive a most beautiful and ineffable fragrance coming forth from her mouth. Wherefore he asked her once what it was she ate that made her mouth so fragrant But she, not knowing, would say that she ate nothing. He, however, persisted in asking so that he might learn. She told him, therefore, that she ate nothing else except bread which had been blessed by the priests, which the old woman brought to her whenever she returned from the church of the Christians. Upon hearing this, Ahmet was filled with agreat longing to see in what manner the Christians received the bread, as well as the order of their church. Therefore he summoned a priest of the Great Church3 and told him to prepare a hidden place for him that he might go when the patriarch was serving the Holy Liturgy. When the appointed day arrived, he dressed as the Christians dressed~ and went to the Patriarchate of the Christians and there he followed the Divine Liturgy.
Now the Master of all, Who knows the secrets of the soul of man, added a second miracle to the first and thus led Ahmet to the knowledge of the truth. Wherefore, while in the church he beheld—O the wonder!—the patriarch shining with a radiance and lifted above the floor as he came forth from the Tribunal and through the Beautiful Gate to bless the people. As he blessed, rays of light came forth from his fingers; but although the rays fell upon the heads of all the Christians they would not come upon Ahmet’s head. Having done this two or three times, Ahmet would see the same thing. Therefore the blessed one believed without hesitation and sent for the priest, who gave him rebirth through Holy Baptism, and thus he remained a Christian secretly for a goodly time.5
Once when Ahmet and certain noblemen had come together, they dined and afterwards sat about conversing while smoking the narghilej,6 as the Moslems are wont to do. And in the course of the conversation they began to discuss what the greatest thing in the world might be, and each brought forth his opinion. Thus the first spoke and said that the greatest thing in the world was for a man to have wisdom. And the second spoke in his turn, maintaining that woman was the greatest thing in the world. And yet a third spoke out saying that the greatest thing in the world, and by far the most delightful, waspilafwith yoghurt~—for was it not to be the food of the righteous in paradise? After this it was Ahmet’s turn to speak, and all turned to him, asking him what his opinion might be in the matter. Then Ahmet, being filled with holy
zeal, cried out as loudly as he could that the greatest of all
things was the Faith of the Christians. And having confessed himself to be a Christian, he boldly censured the falseness and deception of the Moslems. At first, upon hearing these things, the Moslems stood aghast Then being filled with unspeakable rage, they rushed upon the holy Martyr and dragged him to the judge that he might be given the sentence of death. Thus he receisred the crown of martyrdom, being beheaded by command of the ruler on the third day of May in the year 1682, at the place called KayambaneBahche. Such was the blessed end of the holy New Martyr, through whose holy prayers may we be deemed worthy of the Kingdom of God. Amen.
‘Regarding the spiritual condition of Christian slave women who were held as concubines by their masters, St. Basil the Great in his 49th Canon states, “A slave girl violated by her own master is free from responsibility,” and in his 2nd Canon, St. Gregory the Wonderworker says, “if, however, it is found that any particular one of them has lived a life of the utmost sobriety, and that her previous life has been pure and above suspicion, but that she has now fallen as a result of violence and necessity a victim to insult, we have the example to be found in Deuteronomy… Unto the damse4 it says, thou shalt do nothing there is in the damsel no sin deserving of death..
2Bread blessed (but not consecrated) at the Divine Liturgy.
3The Ecumenical Patriarchate.
4fluring the Moslem yoke, the raya—cattle people—as the Christians were called, were subjected to many humiliations in order to induce them to become Moslems. To this end, various steps were taken such as: the confiscation of imposing churches, all Christian churches having to be built below the street level with no crosses allowed on their exterior; heavy taxation of all Christians; forcible abduction of male child.ren in order to form the hateful Janissaries; abduction of Christian girls for the royal and local harems; and forcing the Christians to wear dull and drab clothing while the Moslems wore rich, illustrious garments, seeking to signify in this manner that, in contrast to the Christian Faith, that of the Moslems was “bright,” and “luminous.” For all these great or petty indignities, many Christians gave thanks to God, welcoming this opportunity to witness to their faith. Others, however, being weak in faith, allowed these humiliations to overcome them, and thus many thousands submitted to the Moslem faith as a result of these tactics.
5This was a common practice for those who wished to remain Christian, or who were converted from Islam. The Christians of inner Asia Minor all disappeared officially, most of them becoming crypto-Christians. Thus, on the surface, their names, language, customs, religion, etc. were all Turkish, yet secretly they continued to be Christians. If it was discovered that a former Moslem had become Christian, he was immediately sentenced to death. For this reason, also, we do not know the name that St. Ahmet was given in Baptism.
6A smoking apparatus used in the Middle East, the smoke being drawn through water. 176