May 24, 2015

Saint Agatharchos, Bishop of Lefkada, and the Holy Five God-bearing Fathers

St. Agatharchos and the Five Holy Fathers (Feast Day - Sunday of the Holy Fathers)

Halfway on the uphill road that connects deserted Alexandro with the seaside and bustling Nikiana, the driver or hiker will come across the Hermitage of the Holy Fathers. Crowds of pilgrims visit this location, which is on the northeastern outskirts of Skaros Mountain, the "Holy Mountain" of Lefkada, on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, which is the Seventh Sunday of Pascha, between Ascension and Pentecost. It is on this Sunday that the Church honors the 318 God-bearing Fathers that comprised the First Ecumenical Synod.

Tradition gives us much information about the Holy Fathers and their relationship with the island of Lefkada.

Among the 318 Holy Fathers who attended the First Ecumenical Synod was Bishop Agatharchos of Lefkada. He came from Achaia and was a representative of the Church of Epirus Vetus ("Old Epirus"). It seems that due to the holiness of his life and the grace of the Holy Spirit within him, he attracted five other Holy Fathers who participated in the Synod of Nicaea, whose names are not known. Upon his return, therefore, to his diocese in Lefkada, these five Holy Fathers followed him.

When the Holy Fathers arrived, their ship landed in the cove where the village Episkopos ("Bishop") is today, while the adjacent area known as Nikiana probably derives from the name "New Nicaea".

Three of the Fathers chose a cave on Mount Skaros and decided to live there the rest of their lives. There they passed their time with fasting, vigils and prayers, and they reposed in peace. They were buried in the place where there stands today a small chapel of the Hermitage of the Holy Fathers. From the grave one of the Fathers gushes forth holy water. Indeed, the water level does not decrease at any point of the year, regardless of weather conditions. More so, it doesn't even dry up on the feast day, when numerous people partake of the holy water. The Holy Altar of this small chapel is over the grave of the second Holy Father, while the third is buried on the spot where today three oil lamps burn.

Many miracles constantly take place for those who drink this holy water with faith, invoking the intercessions of the Holy Fathers.

For example, in 1890 the fearsome bandits Psilias and Houtas came to the small Hermitage. With arrogance they persistently asked to drink "from that water." When they approached the holy water, they tried to draw out the water. But in vain! The holy water was dried up. It was only when the nun Akakia came and drew it out that the holy water once again appeared, and she gave some to the fearful bandits to drink.

When a swarm of locusts came to the island and destroyed the chickpeas, which were sown in Livadi of Karyas, they disappeared when the nun Akakia sprinkled holy water over them.

A resident of nearby Pigadisanos was hospitalized in a clinic in Athens, to have surgery done after his eye was detached. The night before his surgery he felt a terrible pain in his eye. Unable to find a doctor, and after the pain had gone down a bit, he fell asleep. He then saw in his dream that he was roaming around the area of Akoni, around the Hermitage of the Holy Fathers. Once he saw the Monastery he remembered the holy water. At that point he felt a terrible pain. He immediately woke up ... healed! He felt no more pain. His healing was confirmed by the scientific staff of the clinic, to the glory of God and the Holy Fathers.

The other two Holy Fathers who followed Bishop Agatharchos, lived as monk in the place where today stands the Monastery of Phaneromeni. At the time there was a small house of prayer where - before the Apostles Aquila and Herodian came to the island - there was a temple dedicated to Artemis. These two Holy Fathers lived there in asceticism and reposed in peace.

Unfortunately, tradition has not preserved the names of the five Holy Fathers. But their memory is celebrated annually on the Seventh Sunday of Pascha.

In the Hermitage of the Holy Fathers there is also kept a "stamp of the Saints," that is, a circular lead seal with engraved patterns of the three Saints.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You are more glorious than all Christ our God, You Who established on the earth our Fathers as luminaries, and through them, You lead us all to the true Faith, Most Compassionate One, glory to You.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Let us praise the three ascetics, who proclaimed in the sacred creed of Nicaea clearly and correctly the Trinitarian Faith; they who through their all-night prayers and abstention from food, calmed the pretentious impulses of the flesh. O people of Lefkada, let us sing their praise with one mouth.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.