Monday, April 18, 2016

Saint Athanasia of Aegina the Wonderworker


Verses

To the noblest Athanasia I offer,
The immortal crown according to My word.

Saint Athanasia was born in Paliachora, Aegina from pious and wealthy parents in the ninth century and had a strong calling towards monastic life. Her parents however, Niketas and Irene, married her off against her will. Sixteen days after the marriage, her husband was killed by Saracen pirates, who had invaded Aegina.

Being widowed, the Saint considered it appropriate to fulfill her sacred desire for the monastic life. And while this thought occupied her, a Saracen decree went out through all of Aegina that all unmarried women and widows were to marry idolatrous Saracen men. So Athanasia, against her will, entered a second marriage.

Always caring for the salvation of her soul, the Saint constantly prayed and offered profusely from her wealth to the needy and suffering. After some time she persuaded her husband to become a Christian and a monk, and was baptized with the name Matthew. Therefore he, after progressing in the virtues, soon after delivered his soul to the Lord.

Then the Saint distributed her property and wealth to the poor, and together with other pious women, she took refuge in a hermitage which she dedicated to the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring, which was probably located where the present Monastery of Saint Nektarios is, where she lived in strict asceticism and fasting. In that place there was a beautiful and ancient church dedicated to the Holy Protomartyr Stephen. Many sick and poor took refuge there. Four years later the Saint was made Abbess of the hermitage, but she departed to a quiet and isolated place, and there with her fellow ascetics she fought the good fight and lived off her handiwork.

From there she went to Constantinople with the presbyter Ignatios, where she lived in asceticism for seven years, then after a vision she again returned to her place of asceticism in Aegina. Twelve days before her repose, she felt death approaching, which is why she called for her nuns, and with her prayers expressed her thanks to the Lord. She took care to elect her successor, and to expedite their coexistence, so their sisterly bond would be maintained in love. On the day before her repose she again called for her nuns, and gave them comforting and wise words, asking them to always be of one soul and one heart. Then after she and the nuns chanted a hymn together, she confessed and communed of the Immaculate Mysteries. The next day she reposed, and delivered her spirit in peace, telling those around her that she awaited them above.

News of her repose brought many of the inhabitants of the island to the hermitage. Those who received help and consolation from her, knelt before her sacred relic, mourning and weeping, and many received healing at her burial.

In the Monastery of Panagia Chrysoleontissa there is a chapel dedicated to Saint Athanasia.

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