Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saint Athanasios the New, Archbishop of Christianopolis (+ c. 1707)

St. Athanasios the New of Christianopolis (Feast Day - May 17)

Verses

The blessed and great worshiper of Christ,
Fled the man-killing arrows of the enemy.
Now the light-bearing spirit of Athanasios leaps.

St. Athanasios was born in Karytaina of the municipality of Gortynia of southern Greece around 1640, with the secular name Anastasios Korfinos. His parents were named Andreas and Euphrosyne and had three other children. We assume that his first letters were learned in his hometown and then he probably attended the famous school of Philosophou Monastery, and later, as a clergyman, in Constantinople.

When Anastasios was of marriageable age, his parents, despite his desire to follow the monastic life, insisted on marriage. In fact his father, even without the consent of his son, betrothed Anastasios to the daughter of a wealthy ruler in Patras, and then sent him to procure in Nafplion wedding stuff. Anastasios obeyed the paternal command and set off for Nafplio. On the way he passed by the church of the Panagia in Vidoni, near the village Syrna, and asked for divine enlightenment.

In Nafplio, after he bought what he needed, the great decision was made. We are informed how the night before the scheduled departure for Karytaina, he was tortured by his thoughts as for what to do, and he saw in a dream the Panagia with the Honorable Forerunner, who called him by the name he would take later as a monk. According to his first biographer, the Panagia told him: "A chosen vessel and servant of my Son I want you to be, Athanasios. Send, therefore, your servants with your wedding garments to your father and allow the daughter to be engaged to another man. You however should go along to Constantinople, in order to receive there what my Son and God should grant you." And this is what happened. Athanasios sent back his servants and left for Constantinople, where, after he became a monk named Athanasios, was ordained deacon and then priest.

During the first patriarchal reign of the Ecumenical Patriarch Iakovos, Saint Athanasios was ordained Metropolitan of Christianopolis, the Exarch of Arcadia, in succession to Metropolitan Eugenios, who on the basis of extant documents was hierarch in this ecclesiastical province from 1645 until 1673 at least. A time of ordination should be assumed at the latest by the end of 1680 or early 1681, since it was discovered that in April of this year that he signed a dismissal letter as a member of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople of the Metropolitan of Evripos and Melenikos.

As for the office of the Metropolis, the title "Christianopolis" refers to the current village of Christianoi. Essentially the center of the Metropolis must have been within the safety of the city of Kyparissia.

The situation in the province of the Saint was economically, religiously and morally a disaster. Since the Peloponnese was a Turkish state, the position of Christians on the economic side was terrible. The religious situation, despite the beneficial effect of the monks of Lousio and the school of Philosophou Monastery and others, did not differ much during these difficult years from the state of the enslaved country.

Saint Athanasios immediately began the fight to tackle the various problems and to improve the situation. The first concern was to find suitable young people for the priesthood. To achieve this objective the Saint founded schools for the functional training of candidates, and also waived any financial payment which was given to the Bishop in the maintenance of himself and the diocese. Believing that the Holy Orthodox Church is a sacred institution that maintains the true faith in Christ and is the connective link which unites the enslaved Greeks and maintains the national consciousness, and even how the churches are the center of reference and the meeting place for the society of poor Greeks, Saint Athanasios arranged for the repair and maintenance of these churches, as long as it was feasible economically and within the license terms set by the Turks. The Saint was also interested in the monasteries, which were the lightposts of salvation and the centers of enlightenment and philanthropy, and led the fight for freedom of the enslaved race.

Before his sheepfold St. Athanasius stood as a true Shepherd and imitator of Christ, who was interested not only in places of worship, but also in the ministry to his people, to alleviate the sufferings of their daily life and work. His love for orphans, widows, the needy, the elderly, the persecuted and the aggrieved was unique.

The Triune God gave the Saint his "wages" and made him worthy within this life and after his death to perform signs and wonders. We are informed how, when the Saint was liturgizing, at the time he came out of the Royal Gate to say "Lord, Lord, look down from heaven and see ...", the faithful saw in front of his mouth a glittering star.

Thus, after shepherding with God's love of his sheepfold and having ministered to the Church of Christ, St. Athanasios died after a few days illness in 1707 or 1708. A few years later, between 1710 - 1713, was the exhumation and the sacred relic was found incorrupt and fragrant.


Apolytikion in the First Tone
For those who celebrate your memory, and honor your body, and most-reverently venerate your myrrh-flowing skull, do entreat Christ the good, having boldness towards God, and by your fervent intercessions, save them from dangers, O holy Athanasios. And having as a fellow-intercessor, the great Forerunner of the Lord, invisibly in the monastery, as a guardian and fortress.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Having been wondrously glorified by God, embellished with fragrances and miracles, in these latter years, Athanasios, you appeared as a quick, and fervent helper, rescuing from dangers, the faithful who honor you, and those who possess your relics, lead by the hand along the path of repentance.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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