April 17, 2010

Saint Makarios Notaras and Patmos

St. Makarios Notaras of Corinth (Feast Day - April 17)

The Kollyvades movement during the second half of the 18th Century is a tradition of which the Orthodox Church is proud. The movement came about because of the argument of when memorial services should be performed. It was suggested that Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, was not appropriate for this service. It resulted in the spiritual elevation of the faith of that period. The purpose of the battle of the Kollyvades was to return to the original Ecclesiastical tradition including the Liturgy, the preparation of the faithful to partake of Holy Communion often, and finally the study of works of the Holy Fathers. “The name Kollyvades was an ironic label given to them by the opposing side [tr. note: From “Kollyva” the boiled wheat used in memorial services]. However, this disdainful name became for them an honorable title. In the intellectual life of Modern Greece this name stands out for one and a half centuries and offers many of her bright pages.”

The coming of the religious refugees Kollyvades to Patmos, including Makarios Notaras of Corinth, Nyphon from Chios and Gregory from Gravana in Nysiros, was like a nurturing rain from the Holy Spirit. Their way of life brought richness to the spiritual revival of Monasticism and the rebirth of monastic life on the island of Saint John the Theologian.

Saint Makarios, the son of George Notaras, was born in Corinth in 1731. He was a descendant of the Notaras family, a well known family during the Byzantine Empire and even later during the occupation of the Turks. Saint Gerasimos of Kephallonia (1509 – 1579) and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Dositheos (1669 – 1707) and Chrysanthos (1707 – 1731) are also descendants of this family. Saint Makarios was given the name Michael when he was baptized by the Bishop Parthenios of Corinth. He was educated by the teacher Efstratios of Kephallonia. Later, due to the lack of teachers at the Academy of Corinth, Saint Makarios taught the children of this area for six years without pay. From a young age, it was evident that he did not care for material things of the world but only for the spiritual ones. When his father placed him as a supervisor of an area where he could be very rich, he gave money to the poor and his father scolded him.

Burning with the desire for the monastic life, Saint Makarios left secretly for the Monastery of Megalo Spileo (the Great Cave). The fathers at the monastery did not want him to stay because they were afraid of the great power his father had in the Peloponnese. Truly, when his father learned of his whereabouts, he ordered them to send him immediately to his birth place. In 1764 when the Hierarch Parthenios of Corinth died, all the inhabitants of Corinth, clergy and laity, unanimously elected Michael Notoras as his successor: “He was ordained and clothed in the garment of a monk and was renamed Makarios. He went to Constantinople and appeared before the Holy Synod and was immediately proclaimed Bishop of Corinth while Samuel was the Patriarch.”

Athanasios Parios mentions in his biography of Saint Makarios that when Saint Makarios became Bishop, he wanted to follow the example of St. Gregory the Theologian. He believed that “he was given the power of the Bishop not for wealth without investigation and as a means of enjoying pleasures, but as service and fatherly care and guidance for the safety and salvation of his flock for which he would give an apology to the Great Shepherd and God and Master of the Universe.” He dismissed the uneducated and old priests from the Priesthood. He forbade the priests from being involved in politics. He ordained them consciously, exactly as required by the Holy Apostolic and Conciliar canons. He would not ordain anyone before the required age. When he ordained deacons, he taught them how to celebrate the Holy Sacraments and Services. He taught catechism to all the priests so that they would learn about the faith. To the villages and towns of the area he gave large baptismal fonts so that the Sacrament of Baptism could be performed perfectly. Finally, he decided to build schools so that he could teach his flock like a good shepherd.

In 1769, during the revolution of the Greeks with the encouragement of the Russians, George Notaras and his son Makarios were accused as instigators and they fled to safety in Kephallonia and later to Zakynthos. They stayed there for three years. In the meantime, the Holy Synod of Constantinople, for diplomatic reasons, deposed Ma-karios from his position and appointed a new Bishop of Corinth. The deposed Makarios withdrew to the Monastery of the Theotokos in Hydra. After the Russio-Turkish war had ended he went to Chios and later to Athos. There he found the upheaval and agitation for the ‘Kollyvades conflict’. Very disappointed he left Athos and goes back to Chios and later to Patmos.

The Holy Cave of the Revelation and the Godly guarded Monastery of Saint Christodoulos attracted the holy soul of Makarios. Therefore with the permission of the Monastery of Saint John, he founded a hermitage with a small church to honor All the Saints on the Mount of Koumana.

This hermitage still exists today in good condition. The Church of All Saints (measurements 7.8×4.5 meters) has a dome which was surrounded by a wall to protect it from the northern winds, pirates and Turks. Recently, the Department of Archeology removed the wall from around the dome. The iconostasis of the little church is of excellent art. Most of its icons of the Twelve Feasts of the Master are preserved in good condition. On the iconostasis with Christ and the All Saints is an inscription: “Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Saints and the Virgin Panagia fought the battle well…” On an icon stand is the icon of Panagia (Virgin) the Miraculous “The joy of all holding Jesus with a Gospel.” The little church has a narthex with two entrances from the north and south and a small house. They are both in good condition. It is said that an olive tree from the time of Saint Makarios still exists.

Saint Makarios remained in Patmos for 10 years (1782 – 1793). In Patmos he met Papa-Niphona from Chios, Papa-Gregory from Nisyros and the priest Athanasios from Armenia. The priest Gregory built cells to meditate near the hermitage of Makarios (east of the Church are ruins of Gregory’s house). Later Gregory, at the location of Grava, built another hermitage, the Panagia of Grava. Today at the Panagia of Grava, an icon of Saint Makarios and Saint Gregory is preserved. When Saint Makarios met Father Niphona, Saint Makarios was persuaded to go to Lipso (Niphona had built a little church – The Annunciation) there, at Romani or Kato Panagia. When Saint Makarios went to Lipso, he built a hermitage, but he did not remain there and returned to Patmos.

In the quietness, isolation and serenity of the holy island, instead of wasting time, Makarios hand copied the codices and wrote the biography of Saint Christodoulos.

In the library of the Monastery, Makarios found works of the Fathers of the Church. He selected materials for the Philokalia, which he later gave to Saint Nicodemos, the Athonite.

Many remembrances and manuscripts exist in the Monastery as testimony to the life of Makarios in Patmos.

The death of his father in Corinth and the need to settle the estate of his father interrupted his peaceful stay in Patmos and forced him to return to Corinth. Returning to his birth place, his father’s property was divided. He surprised everyone by not accepting his share and even more he destroyed all the debts owed to his family.

“The hands that performed the sacraments and gave the Eucharist each time surprising the invisible angels now lifted all the chains of loans and threw them in the fire.”

From that time Makarios never went back to Patmos. From Corinth he went to Chios and later to Smyrna to take care of publishing matters. In Chios, near Vrontathes, he built a small hermitage to honor Saint Peter. From Chios, he and Niphona went for a while to visit his beloved Kollyvades of the Monastery of the Annunciation in Ikaria. With the help of rich friends he completed the construction of the Monastery and then returned to Chios.

He became the spiritual father of Chios and the encourager of new martyrs Polydoros of Cyprus, Theodore of Byzantium and Demetrios of the Peloponnese. Athanasios from Paros his contemporary eye-witness wrote his Life and passes on the following from Iakovos of Chios: “Makarios lived a life in peace without pleasures and far from the noise of the cities. He lived fasting (throughout the year only on Saturday and Sunday did he have oil and wine), with little sleep and constant praying. At the same time, he practiced love for his neighbor according to the commandment of the Lord ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” In 1775 the blessed Patriarch Sophronios wrote and reiterated the same commandment to the priest Makarios: “Brother, do not think that by leaving your county you are free of your ecclesiastical obligations; God does not want this kind of freedom, but wants all of us to be servants, and farmers of the secret vineyard until our last breath. Well, do not neglect teaching with words and deeds the life saving commandments of God. Remember my wretchedness in your prayers to our Merciful God.”

But without exhortation, the God loving Makarios practiced what he preached and looked after his neighbors dutifully. Continuously he repeated the words of the Apostle of the nations: “We are God’s coworkers.” In addition he preached the Holy Word at the Church of Saint Peter. During the time of any Holy Lent he went around preaching.

He taught by his example. The people saw a humble priest with plain clothing, not receiving payment. He gave to the poor, he helped young girls get married and he paid debts of debtors.

The most important was the responsibility of publishing the works of Philokalia, the Evergetinos, St. Symeon the New Theologian, New Lemonarion and the Catechism of Platonos Moschas.

In September of 1804, Makarios had a stroke which left his right hand paralyzed. He died on April 17, 1805, after patiently praying for the forgiveness of his sins. His death is mentioned in the Brevium of the Monastery: “April 17, 1805 the priest Makarios from Corinth died at the hermitage of Saint Peter in Chios. May God rest his soul. In 1808 his sacred bones were exhumed and miracles have occurred because of them.”

When Saint Nicodemos from Mount Athos was dying he asked that the remains of the holy fathers Saint Makarios, the Corinthian and Parthenos who was his spiritual father at Kalyvi of Skourteon be brought to him. He embraced the remains, kissing, crying and talking to them: “Why are you leaving me an orphan? You went to heaven because of your virtuous lives on earth and now you are enjoying the glory of God in Heaven. I am suffering because of my sins. That is why I pray to you to intercede for me with the Lord to forgive me so that I can join you.”

Apolytikion in Tone One
Let us faithful praise the shepherd of Corinth, the really Blessed one, who by God’s providence, for reasons ineffable, became Chios’ great spiritual leader—him who shone through deeds, words, and prayers; for truly he received from God grace for healing the sick and driving away unclean spirits. Glory to the Father Who destined him, glory to the Son Who elevated him, glory to the Spirit who acts through him.

From the Book: Hermits and Hermitages of Patmos

Read more about St. Makarios of Corinth, the Island of Patmos, and His Miraculous Icon