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November 26, 2016

Saint Akakios of the "Ladder"

St Akakios of the "Ladder" (Feast Day - Gr. November 26 & Slav. July 7)


Akakios fled every wickedness of life,
Now delighting in every good being absent of life.

Saint John Climacus informs us concerning the great virtue of obedience for monastics in Step 4 of his Ladder:
Obedience is absolute renunciation of our own life, clearly expressed in our bodily actions. Or, conversely, obedience is the mortification of the limbs while the mind remains alive. Obedience is unquestioning movement, voluntary death, a life free of curiosity, carefree danger, unprepared defence before God, fearlessness of death, a safe voyage, a sleeper’s progress. Obedience is the tomb of the will and the resurrection of humility. A corpse does not argue or reason as to what is good or what seems to be bad. For he who has devoutly put the soul of the novice to death will answer for everything. Obedience is an abandonment of discernment in a wealth of discernment.

And regarding the life of Saint Akakios, who was from the Monastery of the Theotokos in Kellibara on Mount Latros, and who he presents as a model of obedience, Saint John says the following in Step 4:110:

I will not be silent about something which it is not right to leave in silence, lest I should inhumanly keep to myself what ought to be made known. The famous John the Sabbaite told me things worth hearing. And that he was detached and above all falsehood, and free from words and deeds of evil, you know from your experience, holy father. This man told me: 

"In my monastery in Asia (for that is where the good man came from), there was a certain elder who was extremely careless and dissolute. I say this without passing judgment on him, but simply to state the truth. He obtained, I do not know how, a disciple, a youth called Akakios, simple-hearted but prudent in thought. And he endured so much from this elder, that to many people it will perhaps seem incredible. For the elder tormented him daily, not only with insults and indignities, but even with blows. But his patience was not mere senseless endurance.

And so, seeing him daily in wretched plight like the lowest slave, I would ask him when I met him: 'What is the matter, Brother Akakios, how are you today?' And he would at once show me a black eye, or a scarred neck or head. But knowing that he was a worker, I would say to him: 'Well done, well done; endure and it will be for your good.' 

Having spent nine years with this pitiless elder, he departed to the Lord. Five days after his burial in the cemetery of the fathers, Akakios’s master went to a certain great elder living there and said to him: 'Father, Brother Akakios is dead.' 

As soon as the elder heard this, he said: 'Believe me, elder, I do not believe it.'

The other replied: 'Come and see.' 

The elder at once rose and went to the cemetery with the master of the blessed athlete. And he called as to a living person to him who was truly alive in his falling asleep, and said: 'Are you dead, Brother Akakios?' 

And the good doer of obedience, showing his obedience even after his death, replied to the great elder: 'How is it possible, Father, for a man who is a doer of obedience to die?' 

Then the elder who had been Akakios’ master became terrified and fell on his face in tears. Afterwards he asked the abbot of the Lavra for a cell near the tomb, and lived in it devoutly, always saying to the fathers: 'I have committed murder.’" 

And it seemed to me, Father John, that the one who spoke to the dead man was the great John himself. For that blessed soul told me another story as if it were about someone else, when it was really about himself, as I was afterwards able to learn for certain.

The Synaxarion of Constantinople further says about Saint Akakios:

The end of the blessed life of the divine Akakios came after such a struggle and martyrdom of obedience, and he was made worthy of a blessed end. His honorable relic was kept by divine power from above from all corruption and natural dissolution, and it was preserved sound and whole for many years.

Once certain monks from his monastery went out to reap the harvest, for it was the harvest season. Only two monks remained inside the monastery, one to guard it and the other because he was ill. It followed that the monk who was ill died. The other brother, being alone, was unable to dig a grave for him, and arrange all the other provisions for his burial. Therefore he opened the ready tomb of Saint Akakios, and there the dead brother was placed next to the Saint.

The next day he went to the tomb, and he found the dead brother thrown out of the tomb. Again he placed him inside the tomb of the Saint. But finding him once again thrown out of the tomb of the Saint, he made a complaint to the Saint, stating his case by saying: "I heard, Saint Akakios, that no one excelled in obedience as you did. However now, as I see it, you have become so disobedient and proud, that you will not accept this brother in your tomb, instead throwing him out. Therefore allow him to remain in the same tomb, but if you throw him out again, so as not to burden you, I will remove you from the tomb." He therefore placed the brother inside the tomb of the Saint and left.

On the following day he went again, and he found the dead brother sleeping in the tomb, while he was not able to find Saint Akakios. Wherefore till this day the tomb is empty, bearing the name of Saint Akakios.

It should be noted that the most-wise teacher Christophoros Prodromitis, at the request of his novice who also carried the name of Akakios, composed a melodious Service to Saint Akakios together with a biography.

Hymn of Praise:
Saint Akakios

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The elder summoned his novice:
‘Brother Akakios, where are you?’
The elder called once more:
‘Akakios, are you dead?’

‘No, Father, I am not dead,’
The monk humbly replied,
‘For him who faithfully obeys,
There is no death.’

The irascible elder was amazed,
Amazed, and began to weep.
The elder bitterly wept,
And repented of his wickedness.

Why does the cruel elder repent?
Truly, he has a reason.
Into the wilderness, the sinner went
To atone for his evil.

Akakios, the wondrous monk,
By obedience, saved his soul;
And his soul now rejoices,
And his name is glorified.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Like a bright morning star you appeared, bringing cheer to all the chorus of solitaries, Venerable Akakios, your virtues dazzled like the sun, and you raised them up, crowning those who with longing, blossom forth praise, at your cheerful and revered and all-honorable memory.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone (for July 7th)
O God of our Fathers, always act with kindness towards us; take not Your mercy from us, but guide our lives in peace through the prayers of Saints Thomas and Akakios.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Forsaking the world, you followed Christ from childhood. Emulating His voluntary humility, you cast down the prideful tyrant. All-wise and venerable Akakios, unceasingly pray for us all.