New (Old?) Martyrs. A martyr (from the Greek word for “witness”) is someone who has given their life for Christ, dying as a witness to the Orthodox Faith. There are also Great Martyrs - those whose deaths were particularly horrific, Hieromartyrs who died as priests, and Venerable Martyrs who died as monastics. Today we celebrate Venerable Martyr St. Stephen the New… who died for our faith in 767AD, so how exactly does that make him “new?!” The title of “new martyr” has been given for several different reasons over the centuries, so let’s take a look at what they were, and who a few of them are. Originally the title was given to those martyred by tyrannical/ heretical rulers when a saint sharing their name had been previously martyred, e.g., St. Stephen the Protomartyr and St. Stephen the New Martyr. Over the years it was transferred to the Church’s martyrs by the Muslims, the Bolsheviks, and so forth. Generally speaking there are five distinct categories of new martyrs - the New Martyrs under the Ottoman (Muslim) yoke, the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, the Serbian New Martyrs, the New Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion (China), and the New Martyrs of the Modern Era.
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