Thomas Cosmades



Apraham Hoja of Aintab


Biographer’s Note:


August 1913


Time was going fast.  The disturbance was evident everywhere.  Without anyone knowing when it would start, it was generally felt that a war was in the making.  The Armenian population throughout was feeling uneasy under the nationalistic government of Ittihad ve Terakki (Union and Progress).  There was unrest everywhere.  This government which succeeded the cruel emperor Abdul Hamid was giving every indication that it was not one iota tamer than the preceding absolutist reign.  Aintab where Apraham Hoja had always lived, was sensing wide-spread restiveness.  Those who could, were moving to nearby Aleppo.  That city, being mostly populated by Arabs, gave the feeling that it was somewhat safer.  So Apraham Hoja, along with some other folks from Aintab, moved to Aleppo.  Finally, WW I struck the whole empire in all its brutality, bringing with it the notorious massacre of Apraham Hoja’s people (1915-1916).


Although his years were advancing, he was going to live for a good many years to come.  This servant of God, who had been preaching the Gospel and encouraging believers in Aintab, was now doing the same in Aleppo.  He was going around from house to house proclaiming Christ, also spending time every day in fasting, praying and studying God’s Word.  He particularly concentrated his message on the Second Coming of Christ, as the government in the Ottoman Empire was becoming more decadent, belligerent and oppressive.   He would often say, “The Lord is coming soon; I long to meet him in the air.”


The Last Will and Testament of Apraham Hoja


Apraham Hoja did not neglect making a last will and testament.  Following are its contents:


“Dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ, Endless praises to my Lord, the One who revealed Himself and his unalterable truth in His Word.  He revealed it to me, the most unworthy and least known servant of his.  There is nothing worthy in me.  I am what I am by the grace of God.  A particular attribute of God is his delight to do good.  Whatever goodness I may possess, if any, it is simply and solely a work of his sovereign grace.  The Kingdom is his, and all the power and all the glory.  Up to this point, he has nourished me like a mother and carried me in his arms.  I am now an old man of past age.  The end of my journey is approaching.  I don’t know what a joyful life awaits me.  I have had the secret hope that Jesus Christ would allow me to live until he returns.  However, if I am to depart from this body by natural death, I wish to leave a testament before I die.


If there is one thing that I totally detest it is the box they call ‘coffin’.  In Aleppo and all over, its use is general. This practice I find very stupid.  While knowing the folly of the ‘coffin concept’, they go on using it.  People are so filled with pride that they put a dead body in a coffin.  If I die here in Aleppo, and anyone plans to make a coffin for my remains, don’t let him! Tell him in no uncertain terms that in my estimation, he is involved in a very pernicious procedure.  I want no outward mark or honor, no pomp or ceremony – not even the smallest ritual.  For the kingdom and the power and the glory belong to my Lord.

                                                                                                                          Apraham Levonian   ~~Aleppo



 P.S. Now a word about my burial:  I have prepared a set of underwear, a shirt and a tunic.  Please bury me in these.  Don’t spend even five para (the smallest coin) extra on my mortal remains.  While life was in my body, I kept it under and subjected it to my Lord’s command.  Now when life will be gone from it, don’t ever eulogize me at death, for all honor belongs to my Lord alone.  To him be all glory for ever and ever.  Please understand what I am writing.


From the one who loves you with all his soul and covets your salvation, to the glory of God,   A. L.


Biographer’s Final Remarks


In the aftermath of the tragic years of genocides and the expulsion of our people from beloved Anatolia, the land was practically emptied of ArmeniansAleppo was filled with the refugees who could make their way to stay in that city temporarily.  Most of them were to disperse to different countries in Europe, the USA and South America.  A goodly number of Armenians made their home in Aleppo, where they lived, worked and some of them once again prospered.  Apraham Hoja was living among these people.  No one could have foreseen that this frail man would live to the ripe old age of eighty-eight.  His death came in 1941.  Before he died, he wrote the following: “There are those who are afraid of dying.  If anyone overcomes the fear of death, he has conquered all other fears.  One could say about him that he lived a life which triumphed over death and therefore, he lived without fear.  During Apraham Hoja’s God-assigned mission on earth he captured hearts, leading people to repent and to trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior.  He lived the simplest life.  He possessed nothing in the world, loved nothing worldly, felt safe in all places, overcame fears, was not distracted by any care and lived a life of peace in mind and heart.  When evening came, without any anxiety he expected God to provide a lodging place for him and prepare him for the following day.  He sought nothing for himself.  He lived a life of total renunciation of the world, without feeling any grief or regret in his spirit.  Nothing could rob him, even for a moment, of the joy of his Lord and his salvation. 


On the night of his death, he put on his clean tunic and underwear, which he had washed beforehand in preparation.  One would have thought that he was like the bride waiting for her groom.  He said, “Tonight the Lord will come to take me to his presence.  Ask my sister to come and keep watch with me.”  However, his sister remarked, “The Lord alone knows,” and quietly slipped out of his room.  Nevertheless, a sister in the faith volunteered to stay and keep company with him until he died.  She found him in his clean clothing, lying on his bed.  Just as Hoja had prophesied, his never-failing Lord came that night and took him to his mansion above.  So one of the purest and noblest men that I have known passed from earth to heaven.  He died as a conqueror.  He died for the greatest cause, which for him was always to be spreading the message of God’s kingdom.  The whole of eternity was open before him and he went to join the Church Triumphant.


Apraham Hoja’s Funeral


No other funeral in his lifetime attracted as great a crowd of mourners.  They were from every class and background.  They gathered around his earthly remains to pay their last tribute to the saint they had loved so much.


Apraham Hoja was a genuine follower of Christ who could truly say with the Apostle Paul, “The world is crucified to me and I to the world.”  Like the Son of Man, he had no prepared tomb.  He was a luminary, a pilgrim and a stranger who lived in dark surroundings.  Many who died in the faith of Christ had the words of the Apostle Paul quoted at their funeral. Probably Apraham Hoja was one of the most fitting saints to this description: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (II Timothy 4:7, 8).


 I have not written this account to give glory to this humble saint.  He wanted no eulogy at his death.  If I had intended to eulogize him, he would have been the first to protest.  Throughout his life, he fought against any recognition or praise.  He lived the life of a hermit with total self-denial and humility, a life resembling that of John the Baptist.  Like Samuel, the mighty Hebrew prophet, he would testify, “Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed.  Whose ox have I taken?  Or whose ass have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded?  Whom have I oppressed?  Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it?  Testify against me and I will restore it to you” (I Samuel 12:3).  


This book has been written so that people who read it may reflect on past times and some of the saints who lived then.  They will see that a meaningful life on earth can be lived with overcoming victory.  They will observe what God can do in and through a person who is totally surrendered to him and his sovereign will.  They may trust Jesus Christ, believing that he is always ready to use the person of unswerving loyalty, supreme passion and singleness of heart.  “Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:5).  Apraham Hoja believed in his Lord, lived for him and overcame the world through His power. 


At Hoja’s coffin-less burial in a donated tomb in the presence of a great throng, one of the noblest testimonies ever given to a mortal was spoken by an obscure mourner: “The world made fools of millions.  Here is the man who made a fool of the world.”   Hoja’s faithfulness to Christ and his witness for Him are incomparable.  The Memory of the Just is Blessed.


                                                                                                                            Vartan S. Bilezikian