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June 17, 2012

Synaxis of All Saints of Mount Athos

The celebration of All the Saints of Mount Athos by all the Monasteries, Sketes and Cells of the Holy Mountain began with the composition of services and praises by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, who is also the last compiler of synaxaria, or brief lives of saints to be read during Matins. Best known older Athonite writers of synaxaria are Saints Basil the New the Synaxaristes, Philotheos Kokkinos, Kallistos I, Gregory Palamas, Agapios Landos, Kaisarios Dapontes and Papa Jonah the Kafsokalyvitis. St. Nikodemos established the "Sacred and Joint Synaxis of All the Monastic Fathers of the Holy Mountain".

The services and praises were printed in Ermoupolis in Syros in 1847 "through the assistance of the venerable company of Athonite Fathers", who printed around five hundred copies. The exact time of writing is not known.

The first icon of the Synaxis of the Athonite Fathers was painted in 1796 and is found in the administration building of Konstamonitou Monastery in Karyes (photo above). The service for the feast was also probably written in 1796.

Around 1800 the icon of Athonite Fathers was painted (photo above), which is found in the hall of the Synaxis of the Holy Community (photo below), though in the past it was found on the iconostasis of the Holy Church of Protaton in Karyes.

St. Nikodemos states that the reason he established this feast was first because other places traditionally honored their local saints yet Mount Athos had no such feast, second because there was no joint feast to commemorate both all the known and unknown saints of Mount Athos with which to honor them and celebrate them, and lastly because he believed it made the heirs of the Athonite traditions ungrateful for not honoring all of their predecessor spiritual fathers before them. Most especially this feast is to serve as an inspiration towards the imitation of the virtues and zeal of all the fathers of the past. It is with such gratitude, love and inspiration that St. Nikodemos wrote this Service of Praise.

In the Canon of the Orthros many of these Saints are named, though many are also not named. St. Nikodemos tirelessly researched the libraries to uncover these names, but it was not until the 20th century that the blessed hymnographer Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis updated the text.

The Synaxis of All the Saints and Fathers of Mount Athos is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Saint Matthew, which is the Sunday following the feast of All Saints. It is celebrated by all the monks of Mount Athos.

To read more about the Saints of Mount Athos, read here.