September 1, 2015

Saint Meletios the New of Mount Myoupolis (+ 1105)

St. Meletios the New (Feast Day - September 1)


The law of the Lord, Meletios studied,
Thus planting a tree, which bore the fruits of the virtues.
Meletios departed, at the entrance of the year.

Saint Meletios the New was born in 1035 in the village of Moutalaski of Cappadocia. His parents were very pious and virtuous and they were named John and Sophia. He had little ability as a student, but through ardent prayer he received the gift of understanding Holy Scripture, which he contemplated throughout his life and mastered.

At a young age he longed to join the monastic ranks, so he left his homeland and went to Constantinople where he became a monk. Desiring to go on pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem, he set off first for Thessaloniki, where a heavenly sign rather led him to Thebes at the Monastery of Saint George. There Meletios attracted many believers and monks by his holy way of life to live near him, and he served there as abbot.

However, Meletios continued to long to worship in the Holy Places, so he departed first for Jerusalem. He endured trials and tribulations in Jerusalem and came near martyrdom at the hands of the Muslim occupiers. From there he left for Rome, where he venerated the tombs of the Holy Apostles, then returned to his monastery in Thebes to the joy of his disciples.

Meletios wore a single garment of horsehair and ate no more than his body needed to serve the brethren, for whom he was an example of zeal in prayer. Throughout the night, after little rest, he kept vigil with tears flowing from his eyes. His exploits provoked the hatred of the devil who hurled numerous temptations at him. There he acquired the gift of working miracles and prophecy for the benefit of the brethren, and so the people sought him in ever-increasing numbers.

But under the burden of his rapid popularity he was forced leave after twenty-eight years to resettle at Mount Kithairon (near the village of Myoupolis) in a dependency of the Monastery of the Bodiless Powers, where he again attracted many disciples and thus created a huge monastic center (that today bears his name) with twenty four paralavria (small monasteries) and many hundreds of monks. Thus, a new complex of monasteries, centered around the older Monastery of Symboulou, would flourish in Boetia in Central Greece in the second half of the 11th century thanks to the generosity of Emperor Alexios I and the irresistible spiritual influence of its founder. Meletios only accepted from Alexios what was needed, and in return Meletios prayed for Alexios in his campaigns. The Ecumenical Patriarch at this time ordained Meletios a Priest to better serve the needs of his disciples, and Meletios distributed his disciples among the twenty-four paralavria, while the more experienced monks remained in their cells as hesychasts.

After living as an ascetic for many years, Saint Meletios fell asleep in the Lord on Mount Kithairon in 1105 at the age of seventy. His honorable skull can be venerated in his Monastery today.

The Holy Monastery of Saint Meletios in Kithairon

This 12th century monastery is associated with the reformation of monastic life in Greece. A valuable source for the monument is the life of Venerable Meletios the New, who was the founder not only of this Monastery but also of a number of paralavria. Twenty-four paralavria are mentioned in the life. We can detect some of them nowadays, a number of them in half-deserted state, close to or further away from the Monastery. We mention Zoodochos Pigi in Dervenosalesi, Saint George in Ereneia, the Church of the Savior, the one of Panagitsa and the small church of Hagioi Theodori, whose sculptured fragments were transferred to the Monastery of Saint Meletios. The small metochion - katholikon of Hagioi Theodori in the west of the Monastery lies in ruins in a forest. The paralavrion of Saint Paraskevi lies totally ruined in Pournari, near Oinoe in Megaris.

The Monastery is also mentioned in Michael Choniates’ epistles. The bishop corresponded regularly with the abbot of the Monastery. The katholikon is a small, four-columned, cross-in-square church with an annexed chapel. It is dated to the 12th century. Only fragments are preserved from the initial frescoes. The wall paintings in the main church and in the lite are dated to the 17th century.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The bodiless Angel, and servant of Christ, as a divinely inspired man and beauty of ascetics, Venerable Meletios, you granted remedies, being quick to banish, the wicked spirits, and you healed the sick, for your august relics pour forth healings.

Come let us the faithful honor, the boast of ascetics, the beauty of monastics, who died for the Lord by asceticism, Meletios a companion of the Angels and Christ.