January 17, 2010

Saint Anthony the New, Wonderworker of Beroia

Saint Anthony the New, Wonderworker of Beroia (Feast Day - August 1 and January 17)

Saint Anthony came from a devout and prosperous family from Beroia in Macedonia and lived some time between the 10th and 16th century. He was still quite young when, having an ardent desire for the ascetic life, he turned his back on the empty pleasures and comforts of the world to become a monk at the Monastery of Peraia (also known as the Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner and Skete of Beroia), then in full flower. In every monastic virtue he soon became an example to his brethren but, wishing as he did to lead an eremitic life, he was allowed to withdraw to an almost inaccessible cave near the River Aliakmon after twenty years in the Monastery. There he dwelt for fifty years, surviving on the plants that grew in the vicinity, unknown to all but the priest who came from time to time to bring him Holy Communion. Like his illustrious namesake, Saint Anthony the New valiantly withstood incessant attacks of demons, who for years scratched him, appeared to him in the most dreadful shapes, and, by creating the illusion that the river was rising and its waters were about to flood the cave, tried to make him abandon his station and break off his continuous prayer. Such were the circumstances in which the Saint persevered until, at the age of ninety-four, he gave his soul in peace to God.

A good while afterwards, some huntsmen passing that way were alerted by the baying of their hounds: they looked up and beheld a hand waving to them from amid the foliage which completely concealed the cave. Scrambling to the spot, they pushed aside the branches and discovered within the cavern the incorrupt body of the holy ascetic. The Bishop of Beroia was informed and hastened to the cave with a large crowd, eager to venerate the Saint. The question of guardianship of the precious relics having risen between the people from Peraia and those from Beroia, the bishop decided to settle the matter by placing the Saint's body on a cart drawn by two oxen which should be allowed to go wherever divine providence led, as had once been done for the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam. 6). With steady determination, the oxen pulled the cart all the way to Beroia and stopped outside the Saint's family house. His relics were placed in a church dedicated to the Theotokos, but soon thereafter they demolished this church and built another in honor of Saint Anthony the New. However this church burned down on 4 February 1898 inadvertently by a lit candle. A magnificent new church replaced it and this stands till this day. On 12 September 1904 the new church was dedicated by Metropolitan Constantine Isaakidis of Beroia. Every year his feast is celebrated by thousands on August 1 and January 17. Those of various sicknesses and diseases attend and many miracles take place.