Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saintly Saturday: The 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos

Today is an interesting feast: the 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos. My interest is in the fact that it is part of the larger story of the Great Schism.

The popular date for the schism between East and West Christendom is 1054. This is due to a very dramatic event: the papal legate assigned to Constantinople angrily placed a papal bull of excommunication upon the altar table of the Patriarch of Constantinople during a liturgy. This event, however, only signified one argument among many between Rome and Constantinople during which time other Eastern jurisdictions remained in communion with Rome.

The truth is that the Great Schism was a process more than a single event. The seeds were planted as early as the 8th century when the Franks began to distinguish themselves from Constantinople and eventually claimed to be the true heirs of the Roman Empire.

The single most important event in the whole process (at least in the minds of Eastern Christians) is the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204. The City had been unconquerable for almost one thousand years and it falls, not to pagan barbarians, not to the great Roman enemy the Persians or to the Ottoman Turks, but to fellow Christians from the West. It was a deep and bitter betrayal.

Constantinople became vulnerable. It is in this context that the story of the 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou Monastery is told. In 1274, Emperor Michael VIII accepted union with the Roman Church in the face of threats from both East and West. The Union of Lyons stipulated a recognition of Papal authority, the use of the Filioque in the Creed and the use of unleavened bread for communion.

With the sacking of Constantinople fresh in their minds, most of the Orthodox East rejected the Union of Lyons, including Patriarch Joseph, who was deposed. It is even reported that the emperor’s own sister remarked, “It is better that my brother’s empire should perish, rather than the purity of the Orthodox Faith.”

The 26 Monk-Martyrs of Zographou Monastery were among those who were persecuted for refusing to submit to an imperial edict that demanded acceptance of the Union. When imperial forces were sent to Mt. Athos to enforce the imperial policy, the martyrs locked themselves inside the monastery and reproached the imperial forces from inside. The attackers set fire to the building and all twenty-six monks were burned alive.

In truth, the Great Schism didn’t fully come to be until East and West stopped talking to each other after Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans in 1453.


Flaming Ghoul

Let fiery wrath swallow up the survivor, and destruction overtake those who oppress your people. — Sirach 36:8

Number Appearing: 1d6
% in Lair: 80%
Alignment: Chaotic
Armor Class: 6
Move: 9
Hit Dice: 2 (turn as 3 HD)
Attacks: 1d3/1d3 + flame
Special: see below
Save: F2
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XXI
XP: 47

These restless dead are normally the angry victims of persecution — especially those who were burned to death. They resemble normal ghouls, save for the fact that their flesh is charred instead of desiccated. While in combat, they burst into a magical flame. Those in melee with them must make a Save vs. Breath or take 1d3 heat damage every round. Anyone who is hit by the claw of a flaming ghoul must make an additional Save vs. Breath or catch fire. Those on fire will automatically take 1d3 points of damage per round that the flame is not put out. It takes one full round to put a flame out. Anyone who dies from the flame will rise as a flaming ghoul. Those under the effects of a Bless spell are immune to the flames.