Many many thanks to all those who contributed to match a generous $3000 donation from an anonymous donor. The goal was attained this past weekend. It is because of people like you that the Mystagogy Resource Center can continue to offer unique material to all for free on a daily basis that I hope people find beneficial. For those who still wish to contribute, please do so, with much gratitude in return. God bless you all!

November 30, 2010

A Great Miracle of the Apostle Andrew in Cyprus in 1912

The Holy Monastery of the Apostle Andrew in Karpasia, Cyprus, which is presently in the occupied area of Cyprus under the Turks, has an unknown history. According to tradition, it was here where the ship of the Apostle Andrew was in a lull for three days. It was also here where the Apostle struck a rock to create a source of water, which runs from the old church where the holy water flows near the sea. This holy water healed the blind son of the captain of the ship, who, according to tradition, later built the first church here dedicated to the first-called disciple of Christ, Andrew.

However, what made this monastery famous to every Cypriot was the following miracle:

During the abbacy of Economou Christophorou Kykkotis a wonderful event happened which moved the residents of Cyprus and increased respect and love for the Apostle Andrew and his monastery.

Around 1896 certain Turks in the city of Allagia, Asia Minor kidnapped the only son of a poor Greek woman named Maria. Despite her efforts to restore her 13 year-old son, this became unfortunately impossible.

Little Pentelis Hatzigeorgis was taken by his kidnappers to military schools to serve in the Islamic battalions, and after graduation would enter into service of the Sultan and Muhammad.

The mother of the child placed her hope in God and prayed daily for His mercy and the restoration of her child. Many years passed, it was 1912, and Maria saw in her dreams a certain man named Andrew, and he announced to her that she would soon see her son. Maria believed that her visitor was none other than the first-called disciple of Christ Himself. She immediately boarded an Austrian steamer which was going from Smyrna to Larnaka in order to venerate the Apostle Andrew at his monastery in Cyprus.

On this same ship were many Cypriots, men and women, who were working in Mersina and Adana for an official German company that manufactured large rail projects in the East. Also aboard were a small group of dervishes, who were visiting Cyprus to attend a pending issue regarding one of their Tekke's on the island. To certain women on the ship Maria expressed her deep conviction that with the help of Saint Andrew she would get back her son.

One of the dervishes overheard the woman with great interest and observed her. Eventually the young man approached Maria. He asked Maria how she would identify her lost son, so she told him of the peculiar pair of birthmarks that he bore on his shoulder and chest. The young man then threw off his woolen cloak to expose the same marks and fell on his knees before his mother. Despite the many years of separation and Turkish education, Pentelis remembered his childhood.

He then removed the hat from his head, dressed in Greek clothes and confessed his Orthodox Christian faith. The joy of both mother and son, together with the other Christians traveling with them, was great and very moving. Immediately when the ship docked in Larnaka, both mother and son ran to the Church of Saint Lazarus, where they prayed fervently and thanked the Apostle Andrew. Approaching the priest of the church, Fr. John Makoulis, he confessed once again his faith in the Holy Trinity. Fr. John then chrismated him to return him officially once again to the Orthodox Christian faith.

They then visited the Monastery of Saint Andrew where they venerated Saint Andrew and once again thanked him for the deliverance of Pentelis and the answered prayers of Maria. From there they went to Kykkos Monastery where they stayed for a few days.

Within months of this event, the shrine received a stream of pilgrims which increased into a flood as the saint proved his power over a random pilgrimage of supplicants, Greeks as well as Turks, sophisticated Athenians as well as local peasants.

The Skete of Saint Andrew in Karyes, Mount Athos

The Skete of Saint Andrew in Karyes of Mount Athos is also know as Serai and stands where the old Monastery of Xistrou once stood. Previously known as the Cell of Saint Anthony, it was built by Russian monastics in 1842 at the sponsorship of the Russian Tsar. In 1849 the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized it as the Skete of Saint Andrew. Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople consecrated the church in 1900 and it is one of the largest churches in the Balkans and the largest on Mount Athos. It is a dependancy of Vatopaidi Monastery and housed 800 monastics before World War 1; today there are about 20 monks. The Skete houses a portion of the skull of Saint Andrew. The Athonias Academy is in this Skete.

See photos here.

Christianity in Egypt Started 200 Years Earlier Than Thought

Of course, this information is nothing new to Orthodox Christians, but it is interesting nonetheless.

November 30, 2010

Brigham Young University researchers have unearthed evidence that proves Christianity in Egypt started two centuries earlier than previously believed.

The researchers were digging on the edge of the Fayum oasis south of Cairo, in a spot called Fag el-Gamous, or Way of the Water Buffalo, when they stumbled upon the find.

The Bible says Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt for a time with the baby Jesus to escape Herod's henchmen, and about 50 years later, St. Mark supposedly established a church in Alexandria.

But according to scholars, Christianity didn't take root in the Land of the Pyramids for another three centuries.

Now BYU diggers have found a necropolis in which the dead were buried in layers of graves, leaving a record of how burial practices changed between 350 B.C. and A.D. 500.

Archaeologist C. Wilfred Griggs and his colleagues burrowed into the cemetery and documented shifts in burials that he believes point to early Christian influences.

"All the burials we encountered were 'head east' burials, but, when we got to the bottom of the shaft, we found them 'head west'," the Salt Lake Tribune quoted Griggs, a BYU professor of ancient scripture who has led the university's Egypt excavations since 1981, as saying.

"What happened? Did someone miss the program? I became aware we had a pattern here.

"Right around the end of the first century, the burial started changing. Was there a mass migration or revolution? It probably resulted from a change of religion, and the only change of religion was the arrival of Christianity," he stated.

BYU crews have located 1,700 graves, which yielded numerous artifacts that Griggs suspects are the oldest-known pieces of Christian iconography in the form of crosses, fish and figurines.

His theories could upend, or at least complicate, accepted ideas for how Christianity spread through Egypt during the first centuries after Jesus' crucifixion.

"If it's true, that would be interesting, but I would be cautious," warns Francois Gaudard, a researcher at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute who specializes in Coptic studies.

While his ideas have generated scepticism, Griggs says no one has offered an alternate interpretation of the Fag el-Gamous finds.

David Whitchurch, another professor of ancient scripture involved with BYU's dig, said a person buried with the head to the west would rise facing east, the direction from which the Christian Messiah is supposed to approach on Judgment Day.

On the other hand, a person buried head east would rise facing west, a direction ancient Egyptians associated with death.

"Something is going on here, there is no question. We know Christianity spread to Egypt. How far it spread and how early is open to question," Whitchurch added.

For more details on this find, read: BYU Diggers Rewriting History in Egypt

The Cathedral of the Holy Apostle Andrew in Patras

At the location of the Apostle Andrew's martyrdom in Patras, Greece are two churches. The older church is built over the actual spot of his martyrdom and was founded as seen today between 1836 and 1843. Inside is the marble tomb of the Apostle Andrew in which his relics were placed, though in the 4th century his relics were transferred to Constantinople by Emperor Constantius and eventually ended up in Rome. On 26 September 1964 the Vatican returned the skull of the Apostle Andrew together with a finger to the people of Patras as a gesture of ecumenical good will. The newer more majestic church was built in a more Roman/Byzantine style and was initially founded in 1908 by King George I and dedicated in 1974 by Metropolitan Nikodemos of Patras. The latter is the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans and one of the largest in all of Europe. The central dome is 46 meters in height on top of which is a Cross made of pure gold surrounded with 12 other Crosses in honor of the twelve disciples. The new church can hold 5,500 people.

Next to the older church is the well and cave of the Apostle Andrew. This well at first was dedicated to Demeter, but now contains Holy Water sanctified by the Apostle. It was here that Saint Andrew would preach and it was inside this cave in which the original X-shaped cross of the Apostle Andrew was later found.

The videos below were shot by my sister Vaso, and also feature my niece Christiana and parents Panagiotis and Panagiota. In the first video are inside shots of the newer church during a Divine Liturgy in the summer of 2009. It features shots of the skull and X-shaped cross being venerated by the faithful. The second video has my family walking from the new church, passed the old church (which was closed), to the well and cave of St. Andrew. My father narrates some of his memories, since he was born and raised in Patras and was present at the joyous parade of 26 September 1964 when the relics of St. Andrew were returned. The photos are mainly personal photos owned by me.

Read also: The Translation of the Honorable Skull of the First-Called Apostle Andrew

Narcissism No Longer a Psychiatric Disorder

November 29, 2010
The New York Times

Narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and the need for constant attention, has been eliminated from the upcoming manual of mental disorders, which psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illness.

As Charles Zanor reports in today’s Science Times, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — due out in 2013 and known as D.S.M.-5 — has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition. The best known of these is narcissistic personality disorder.

It is a puzzle why the manual’s committee on personality disorders has decided to throw N.P.D. off the bus. Many experts in the field are not happy about it….One of the sharpest critics of the D.S.M. committee on personality disorders is a Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. John Gunderson, an old lion in the field of personality disorders and the person who led the personality disorders committee for the current manual.

Asked what he thought about the elimination of narcissistic personality disorder, he said it showed how “unenlightened” the personality disorders committee is. “They have little appreciation for the damage they could be doing.” He said the diagnosis is important in terms of organizing and planning treatment.

To learn more read the full story, “A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored” and then please join the discussion below.

November 29, 2010

The Silence of a Monastic Confounds Philosophers

Some philosophers once visited an elder, and after he had offered a prayer he remained silent, braiding cord and paying no attention to them.

They besought him, saying: "Say something to us, father", but he held his peace. They said to him: "This is what we came for: to hear you say something and to benefit from it."

The elder said to them: "You spend your money to learn how to speak. I left the world to learn how to keep silent."

They were filled with amazement on hearing this and went their way edified.

From the "Supplimentary Tales" of The Spiritual Meadow by St. John Moschos.

The Christmas Tree and Orthodox Tradition

By Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos of Nafpaktos

I suspect that the custom of decorating a tree at Christmas time is not simply a custom which came to us from the West and which we should replace with other more Orthodox customs. To be sure, I have not gone into the history of the Christmas tree and where it originated, but I think that it is connected with the Christmas feast and its true meaning.

First, it is not unrelated to the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah:
 "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Is. 11:1). St. Cosmas the Poet had this prophecy in mind when he wrote of Christ as the blossom which rose up out of the Virgin stem from the stump of Jesse. The root is Jesse, David’s father, the rod is King David, the flower which came from the root and the rod is the Theotokos. And the fruit which came forth from the flower of the Panagia is Christ. Holy Scripture presents this wonderfully. Thus the Christmas tree can remind us of the genealogical tree of Christ as Man, the love of God, but also the successive purifications of the Forefathers of Christ. At the top is the star which is the God-Man (Theanthropos) Christ.

Then, the Christmas tree reminds us of the tree of knowledge as well as the tree of life, but especially the latter. It underlines clearly the truth that Christ is the tree of life and that we cannot live or fulfill the purpose of our existence unless we taste of this tree, "the producer of life". Christmas cannot be conceived without Holy Communion. And of course as for Holy Communion it is not possible to partake of deification in Christ without having conquered the devil when we found ourselves faced with temptation relative to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where our freedom is tried. 

We rejoice and celebrate, because "the Tree of Life blossomed from the Virgin in the cave".

Excerpt from the book titled The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the 12 Feasts and Orthodox Christology, 1993.

Synaxarion of Hieromartyr Philoumenos of Jacob's Well

Synaxarion For Saint Philoumenos the New Hieromartyr 
(November 16/29)


Philoumenos, being befriended by Christ
Was arrayed in the radiant porphyry of martyrdom.
Philoumenos was recently slaughtered violently
As the friend of God by the Well of Jacob.

On this day, we celebrate the Holy Glorious New Hieromartyr Philoumenos the Cypriot, of the surname Chasapes, who preserved the Holy Pilgrimage of the Well of Jacob reverently and faithfully, and baptized seventy Jewish souls, and whose head was split seventy times with an axe by a fanatical Jew and was perfected in martyrdom, in the year 1979. His holy body was uncovered and found incorrupt and fragrant, and is kept now and ever unharmed in the Holy City.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The offspring of Orountas, and from the root of Cyprus, and new Hieromartyr of the divine Well of Jacob, O faithful let us honor Philoumenos as a defender of our faith, and as an eternal soldier of Christ’s truth, we fervently cry out: glory to Christ Who glorified you, glory to Him Who kept you incorrupt, glory to Him who revealed you as our benefactor towards heaven.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Vanquisher of demons, dispeller of the powers of darkness, by thy meekness thou hast inherited the earth and reignest in the Heavens; intercede, therefore, with our Merciful God, that our souls may be saved.

Rejoice, revered root of Orounta, rejoice, very-precious treasure of the island of Cyprus, rejoice, the beauty of the Church of Morphou, Philoumenos, new exemplar of martyrs.

See also:

Athens Mosque Plan Faces New Hurdles

Far-right groups threaten to stop construction of mosque, while Zaha Hadid denies she offered to design it.

Helena Smith
November 28, 2010

A controversial bid to build a mosque in Athens has assumed new, more dramatic proportions amid threats by the far-right to stop its construction and a denial by the renowned Anglo-Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, that she is involved in its design.

Tensions have soared in the only EU capital where Muslims are still forced to pray in underground basement flats and garages in the absence of a proper place of worship.

Two weeks after a neo-fascist party won its first-ever seat on Athens council in local elections – highlighting growing Greek hostility over the country's rising immigrant population –opposition to the decades-old project has grown.

London-based Hadid, whose ultra-modern creations include Rome's Maxxi: Museum of 21st century Arts, took the unusual step of refuting local media reports that she had offered to design the state-funded mosque for free.

"The practice has not been approached by the authorities in Greece nor by any other institution regarding a mosque in Athens," her office said in a statement.

"Recent reports referring to Zaha Hadid Architects' involvement in the project are unfounded."

The rebuttal is the latest twist in a saga that dates back to the 1930's over whether the predominantly Christian Orthodox state should officially cater to followers of Islam.

Not since the Ottomans evacuated Athens in 1832, nearly 400 years after they marched into the city, has a mosque operated within its confines. The legacy of such rule has meant that outside Greece's Muslim-dominated province of Thrace, Nicosia in Cyprus is the only city in the Hellenic world where the muezzin can still be heard.

Arguments over locale and funding have added to the row. In the run-up to the 2004 Athens Olympic games, an offer by the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to finance a mosque near Athens international airport was vociferously opposed by the Greek Orthodox church on the grounds that the sight of a minaret and dome might make visitors wonder where they had landed in an Islamic state.

A law passed in 2006 by the previous conservative administration foreseeing the construction of a Muslim place of worship on a former naval site near the city centre foundered after locals put up a stiff fight.

Today, resistance has been fuelled by the country's dire fiscal straits. With unprecedented government cutbacks and economic austerity, many Greeks have asked whether it is appropriate to allocate funds for a mosque.

"Why should we spend money to build a mosque?" Maria Kontou, a pensioner, was quoted as saying in the English-language Athens Plus. "Did we ever get help to build Greek Orthodox churches abroad?"

But as a gateway to the EU of illegal immigrants, Greece's Muslim population is also growing. At nearly half a million, the community stepped up pressure on the ruling Socialists to resolve the dispute earlier this month by staging mass public prayer sessions across Athens to mark the Eid al-Adha festival.

The open-air services triggered clashes between police and protesters from the extreme-right nationalist Chrysi Avgi party, who at one site pelted worshippers with eggs, deluged them with offensive leaflets and screamed obscenities.

Attempting to allay tensions, George Papandreou's government has announced that it will convene an international competition to design the mosque in the coming months.

The Monastery of Saint Gerasimos of the Jordan

The documentary below features life inside the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos of the Jordan which is in the desert near the Jordan River where Christ was baptized by John the Forerunner. It features the elder of the monastery, Chrysostomos, who has made this deserted area into an oasis. Near the Monastery one can also see, according to tradition, either the cave of St. Mary of Egypt or the more recent ascetic who imitated her life of repentance, St. Photini. The relics of St. Gerasimos have not been found, but Fr. Chrysostomos has uncovered many graves of monks outside the Monastery among which he believes will be found his relics.

The Chapel of the Flight Into Egypt inside the Monastery is the traditional location where the Theotokos, St. Joseph and the infant Jesus stopped on their way to Egypt. According to tradition, while the Holy Family stayed overnight in this cave, a thief warned other thieves to not bother them. This is because after the Theotokos bathed the infant Jesus, the wife of the thief washed her sick child with the same water, and immediately the child became well. It is said that the child who was healed grew up to be the thief crucified next to Jesus who was first to enter Paradise.

Outside the Monastery is also buried a nun by the name of Christodouli who lived in a room inside the Monastery and died at the age of 104. She loved animals very much, especialy cats, dogs and goats. Her holiness was revealed at her burial, when she was taken from the church inside the Monastery to where she is buried. The few people in attendance testify that at her burial her grave was surrounded by cats and dogs and on the walls were many birds. These were the animals she fed from her own meager food.

The Monastery has three places where pilgrims can stay to be refreshed for many days. Because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in recent years few people visit. Fr. Chrysostomos does whatever he can to help the Orthodox and Muslims who live nearby in Jericho financially.

Related posts:

St. Gerasimos of Jordan Monastery (Documentary)

Recent Miracles of St. Gerasimos of Jordan

Holy New Martyr Nicholas Basdanis of Metsovo (+ 1617)

St. Nicholas Basdanis (Feast Day - May 17 and November 28)


You escaped the fire of gehenna all-blessed one,
By enduring the fire right-minded Nicholas.

Metsovo on the borders of Epiros and Thessaly was the birth place of St. Nicholas the New Martyr, often known as "St Nicholas the Vlach". The Pindos Mountain range in Central Greece has long been home to the Vlachs, a mainly Romanian speaking minority who have always lived at peace with their Greek speaking neighbors. Staunchly Orthodox, only a few Vlachs converted to Islam during the long centuries of Ottoman domination. At one point of his life this St Nicholas joined that small community of Vlach Muslims.

The Basdanis family were one of the poorer families of Metsovo, a prosperous town on an important trade route across the Pindos Mountains. By reputation they were devout and hard working Orthodox Christians, it is likely that they spoke Greek and the local Vlach dialect. At a young age Nicholas was sent to Trikala to work, here he was employed by a baker in a mainly Muslim area. Quite naturally, he made many friends amongst the Muslim community of Trikala -- people of his own age and others who frequented the well known bakery.

Certain influential and well educated Turks took an interest in this bright young man; they helped him in many ways and over a period of time they persuaded Nicholas that it was to his advantage to become a Muslim. Flattered by their attention and dazzled by the prospect of becoming associated with the elite of the ruling community he finally converted to Islam. It is recorded that the Saint was immediately struck by remorse and that he secretly left for Metsovo, his home town. Here he reverted to Christianity and took up a life of striking repentance and prayer.

Nicholas was warmly welcomed back by his family and relatives but, being very poor, they were unable to support him for very long. He soon came out of hiding and found a job that also involved him transporting pine woodtorches to Trikala. On one such journey he was inevitably recognized by a Turkish barber, an old acquaintance, who noticed that Nicholas was no longer dressed as a Muslim. This man threatened to denounce him to the authorities unless Nicholas agreed to bring him a certain quantity of pine wood torches once a year. Nicholas, knowing that the penalty for apostasy from Islam was death, left all the merchandise that he had brought to sell for his employers in Trikala with the barber and agreed to come back a year later with more.

Back in Metsovo the Saint had time to think things over. He consulted his spiritual director and after many discussions they agreed that he neither should nor could give in to blackmail. Nicholas himself was convinced that he was now prepared to make public his reversion to Christianity and face the consequences. After much prayer and discussions with the monks of the Meteora Monasteries, his spiritual director also agreed and gave the Saint his blessing.

On the appointed day Nicholas returned to Trikala to meet the Turkish barber. He refused to hand over any pine wood and invited the barber to turn him in to the authorities. Outraged, the barber dragged him before the Muslim judges. Nicholas fearlessly spoke out before the judges and the many Turks who soon gathered about. In the face of promises and threats he insisted that he had been born a Christian and so desired to die one too.

Nicholas was beaten by the mob and thrown into the castle dungeons. Here he was tortured and starved but steadfastly refused to give in. Eventually the authorities decreed that he should be burnt in the central square of Trikala. The sentence was carried out on May 17, 1617. The Saint died, praying in the flames before the assembled citizens of Trikala.

A certain potter bribed the Turkish guards for a portion of the Saint's relics. The New Martyr was soon famous across the region and numerous miracles were attributed to his intercessions. The healing properties of the few surviving relics ensured a steady flow of pilgrims from all parts of Epiros and Thessaly. These are now shared between the Varlaam Monastery of Meteora, the Eleousa Monastery on an island in Lake Ioannina and the Monastery of the Dormition in Metsovo.

The people of the Pindos Mountains revere the Saint as their special patron. In his home town, Metsovo, a church was dedicated to him in 1800 and another was erected on the site of the family home in 1959. Others can be found in the Trikala region, at Tyrnavo and as far away as Artemis in Attica. Nicholas Carcase published the Life and Office of the Saint in Venice in 1767.

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate formally canonized Nicholas Basdanis as a saint of the Universal Church on November 28, 1988. He is commemorated on this date and on that of his martyrdom - May 17.


Apolytikion in the First Tone
Offspring of Metsovo and boast of Trikkala, the imitator and of the same manner as the Martyrs of old, let us the faithful honor Nicholas, the new Athlete of the Savior, who rescues from all kinds of dangers, those who cry out with faith: Glory to Him Who gave you strength, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who works through you all manner of healings.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
As a newly-illumined star, you brilliantly contested, in these latter years; a Martyr of the Church of Christ, you have shown yourself to be Nicholas, wherefore she praises your divine contest.

Rejoice divine offspring of Metsovo, rejoice helper and aid of Trikkala, rejoice you who grants the grace of healing, thrice-blessed Nicholas, to those who hasten to you.

Saint Anthony the Hesychast of Iezeru–Valcea Skete (+ 1714)

St. Antonie the Anchorite, otherwise known as St. Anthony the Hesychast (Feast Day - November 23)

                                                          By Hieromonk Ioanichie Bălan

There are numerous Romanian hermits with a saintly life who lived throughout the centuries in the old forests and the hidden caves in the depth of the Carpathian Mountains. But, by the Lord’s grace, most of them remained unknown, loving more the peace and the life of a foreigner for the love of Christ, who sacrificed Himself on the cross for the redemption of man.

One of the great hermits of the Carpathians was the Righteous Antonie (Anthony) of Iezeru – Vâlcea Skete, called "Saint Antonie the Anchorite" by the locals. This righteous father is the most renowned hermit of Oltenia from the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the next. His name and his deeds remind us of Saint Daniil (Daniel) the Anchorite from Stephan the Great’s Putna Monastery in the 15th century.

The Righteous Antonie the Anchorite was born in one of the villages near the Carpathians of Vâlcea County. During his childhood he lived in purity. He had a great love for the monastic life and he often went visiting the numerous monasteries and sketes from that place, as well as the hermits who were searching for peace in the mountains. Then, following the advice of the igoumen of Iezerul - Vâlcea Skete, he took up the cross of Christ, becoming a monk in this far from the world skete. Here lived a few hermits who loved living in peace, prayer and fasting, who raised the young monk Antonie in his spiritual life by accustoming him to silence, fasts, night vigils, humbleness and especially incessant prayer.

After a few years the zealous hermit, advancing in spiritual life and having a great love for Christ, wanted to follow the hermits from long ago and retreat in the mountains to live in peace, to perfect his prayer and holy life. So he often visited the righteous that lived in the depth of the forests and requested their advice and blessing. Then, through a lot of prayer, fasting and all night vigils, and by running to the help of the Theotokos, the protector of Iezeru Skete, he received the blessing to retreat to live as a hermit, like many other monks wanted.

So, in 1690, the Righteous Antonie climbed a few miles to the mountain where the skete is. There he searched a cave for a small church and a cell. After a lot of searching and prayer, he found a small cave under a rock and started living in it. This was his cell, prayer corner, room and safe house for his body tired through fasting and metania [repentance]. But his soul didn’t rest completely because there wasn’t any church nearby, where he could raise day and night his heart and hands in prayer. Then he prayed to the Theotokos and started digging a small church in the rock. And he worked alone for three years only with a chisel and a hammer. Then he added an iconostasis, icons and other things needed, and when it was ready, the Righteous Antonie called the Bishop of Râmnic, Ilarion (Hilarion), to bless it. In this small church dug in rock, the blessed elder prayed to God day and night for the rest of his life, together with the angels in Heaven.

But who can say anything about his ascetic life, the three days long or even longer fasts, the all night vigils, the struggles with the unseen enemies who can’t stand the humbleness and the labors of the saints, the fiery prayer and the unstopping tears that spring from the heart? He never slept for more than two or three hours at night and he didn’t eat anything else than old bread soaked in water and salt with a few vegetables that he grew in his small garden. Then he was repeating incessantly “The Jesus Prayer” from his heart and he was reading the Psalter, with a lot of tears of humility.

For his many deeds, the Righteous Antonie has received from God the gifts of foreseeing and of healing human sufferings. Anyone who came to his cave and asked for a word of advice and prayer received the fulfillment of his request. The Elder also had a few disciples in Iezeru Skete who came to him on holidays and brought to him his needed things. One of them was Father Nicolae Ierei, the one who knew the best the life of the Righteous Antonie. He is the one who buried the Elder after his repose and wrote his life.

By 1700, Iezeru Skete, built by King Mircea the Shepherd (1553), was deteriorated and the church deserted. From 1700 to 1705, at the urge of the Righteous Antonie the Anchorite, the bishop of Râmnicu-Vâlcea, Ilarion, together with the villagers of Cheia rebuilt the church out of stone, as well as the cells. We can read on the church’s inscription: “This holy church, where it is celebrated on the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple, was first built by the late king Mircea with his queen Chiajna, in 7061 (1553 AD), and after some time, because of carelessness, was deteriorated. And then it was rebuilt by the God-loving kir Ilarion, bishop, being helped by Antonie the schema monk…”.

Tradition says that this great anchorite contributed himself to the rebuilding of the church and the cells of Iezeru as he was from this skete and very zealous at rebuilding the house of the Lord, the one incessantly glorified by both men and angels. But not only then, but also many times the Righteous Antonie climbed down from his cave to Iezeru Skete, especially during the great holidays, to participate in the Divine Liturgy and take communion of the Flesh and Blood of Christ. Then, after he ate together with the brothers from the skete and gave useful spiritual counsels to his disciples, he climbed to his hidden cave in the mountains, in the depth of the forests. But he didn’t have disciples only in monasteries, but also people from the villages and cities, hearing about the holiness of his life, came to Iezeru Skete and to the cave to receive counsel and a prayer of blessing.

The name of the Righteous Antonie became known also over the Carpathians, even in the northern part of Transylvania, from where the believers came down the valleys of Jiu or Olt rivers to ask the Saint to pray for them or at least touch his clothes. One of these disciples was "the humble hieromonk kir Nicolae, son of Nicolae from Teiuş”, who came regularly to the cave of the Righteous Antonie. Upon hearing about this famous hermit, he left Transylvania and became a monk at Iezeru Skete, becoming the Saint’s closest disciple. At the Saint’s advice, he was ordained as a priest and spiritual father of the skete by bishop Ilarion of Râmnicu - Vâlcea and he sometimes celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the cave of the Righteous Antonie.

After 28 years of harsh acetic life as a hermit, the Righteous Antonie the Anchorite, pleasing the Lord, gave his soul into His hands, some time before 1714. His disciple, "the spiritual father Nicolae Ierei”, took care of the Saint during his last few days, giving him communion. Then, being wept over by his disciples – hermit monks and believers from everywhere -, he was buried by the igoumen of Iezeru Skete and all the monks near the door of the small church dug in the rock by hand, near the cave, where he still is.

Many years later his disciples – or even believers from the villages around – were climbing Iezeru Mountain with kollyva, oil and candles in their hands and, after they were praying in the small church, they were making metanias [prostrations] and weeping at the tomb where the relics of the Righteous Antonie lie, whom they honored as a saint. Then they were holding a memorial service, lighting hundreds of candles and vigil lamps, were crossing themselves in the cave of Saint Antonie, where the good soldier of Christ lived for 28 years, suffering great temptations from the devils, and then they were climbing down the mountain, each one to his home, asking the help and prayers of their spiritual father. This tradition was kept until our times in those places, especially in Iezeru Skete, which he helped building.

Several years after the departure of the Righteous Antonie the Anchorite, his disciple, "Nicolae Ierei, the spiritual father”, wrote his life, as he was the one who knew it the best, in which he writes, among other things: "…(Schema Monk Antonie,) wanting to live alone, so he can fight against the artful one, and leaving the monastery and trying in deserted places and searching for a place to pray, by the Lord’s grace, he found this cave…”.

Today we can still see the righteous’ cell, called "The Cave of Saint Antonie” by the locals, as well as the little stone church, deserted. Near the door of this small church is the tomb of the Righteous Antonie the Anchorite with the forgotten relics of a Romanian saint who prays before the Holy Trinity for us all.

Source: The Patriarchate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Romanian saints and defenders of the Law of our forefathers, E.I.B.M.B.O.R., Bucharest, 1987, p. 496-499. "The Righteous Antonie the Anchorite of Iezeru-Vâlcea".

Additional Notes: According to the nuns at the skete, he was a merchant of Vlach origin, born in Ioanina. He was married and had a son who became a priest. At 64 years old, he became a monk at Saracinesti Monastery, a few kilommeters away from Iezeru Skete. He wanted to go to Mount Athos, but bishop Ilarion sent him to rebuild Iezeru Skete. In 1690 the saint retreated in a small cave a few kilometers away from Iezeru, where he eventually was buried. Before he died he told his disciple Nicolae that they will stay in the skete as long as his relics are buried in the cave. In the 19th century, Saint Calinic of Cernica (April 11) wanted to search for the holy relics, but the night before he came, the rock collapsed and most of the tomb was covered. Saint Calinic realised it was the will of Saint Antonie to remain there so he gave up searching for the holy relics. Just recently, a part of his holy relics were uncovered and placed in the church of Iezeru Skete.

Saint Antonie of Iezeru was officially canonized in 1992. The article above by Elder Ioanichie Balan was written in 1987. He is commemorated on November 23rd.

Everything translated by Marius Nitu.

The cave of St. Antonie

The church built by St. Antonie

The Akathist of Saint Antonie of Iezeru:

Iezeru Skete:

The Cave of Saint Antonie:

Video made after the holy relics were brought to Bucharest for a week in September 2010:

Another life of Saint Anthony the Hesychast can be read here