November 27, 2015

Saint Damaskinos the Studite, Bishop of Liti and Rendini (+ 1577)

St. Damaskinos the Studite (Feast Day - November 27)

Damaskinos, the Bishop of Liti and Rendini, was a prominent figure and holy hierarch not only of the 16th century, but throughout all the years of bondage under the Turks, and therefore is a spiritual lighthouse that illumined then the spiritual darkness of Orthodox Christians, glorifying as well the renowned Diocese of Liti and Rendini, which because of him became famous throughout the world.

He was born around the year 1520 in Thessaloniki where he received an excellent education. Damaskinos, known as Demetrios at this time, went to Constantinople as a young man, and prior to 1546 became a Monk in the Monastery of Stoudios, where he received the name Damaskinos and the nickname "the Studite". As a Deacon he studied at the famous Patriarchal Academy under Thomas (Theophanes) Eleavoulkos Notaras, and also became a renowned preacher in Constantinople, where he spread beneficial words like seeds, and these later became material for his popular book titled Thesauros (Treasure).

Between the years 1550 and 1558 Saint Damaskinos was active in the area of Trikala, probably as a Teacher of the School there, and prior to 1558 he was ordained a Priest. At the same time he went to Venice where he published his book Thesavros (Treasury). This book is a compendium of 36 sermons devoted to passages of Holy Scripture and feasts of the Church. Written in contemporary vernacular Greek, this work reveals Damaskinos’ wide knowledge of scriptural, patristic, historical and philosophical literature. Since its editio princeps in Venice in 1558, the Thesavros has been published in numerous editions (51 times until 1926). The text was translated into Turkish (1731; unpublished) and several Slavic languages.

In 1560 the Hieromonk Damaskinos was elevated to Bishop of Liti and Rendini in the Church of the Archangel "Rotunda" in Thessaloniki by Archbishop Theonas of Thessaloniki.

Although Saint Damaskinos was a Bishop, he did not cease to combine his brilliant education with his immeasurable humility. The German theologian, Stefan Gerlach (1546-1612), though hostile to Orthodoxy, confirms that Damaskinos of Liti and Rendini was one of the three educated Orthodox clerics of his time and was the most laudable "due to his particular modesty, simplicity and his other virtues."

Because of his gifts he enjoyed the trust of the Patriarchs for influential missions as an Exarch, such as to Mount Athos (1567) and Little Russia (Ukraine), where from 1565 to 1572 Damaskinos contributed to decisively defeating Roman Catholic propaganda. Later, during the Patriarchy of Jeremiah II the Tranos (+ 1595), who was a student of Bishop Damaskinos, he took part in drafting the patriarchal dogmatic answers (1572-1573) to the Lutheran Protestants of Tübingen. He was also the deputy to the Throne of Constantinople for many months while the Patriarch was absent.

In 1574 the Saint was elevated to Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Arta and Exarch of all Aitolia, where he served for about two years, until 1576, when he was ranked among the scholars of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Shortly afterwards, in the year of our salvation 1577, he reposed in the Lord and was buried in his Metropolis, in Nafpaktos or Arta. An Epigram referring to the Saint, praises him and describes Damaskinos as "the wisdom of the Greeks", and his death as a bad moment which left philhellenes orphans.

His writings, besides his Thesauros, testify to his genuine monastic experience and reverence for Orthodoxy and the Holy Fathers. The various texts include a Canon in Honor of the New Martyr Nicholas (+ 1554) who is celebrated on February 14th, poems in honor of the Theotokos in the Homeric language, an Exhortation to Monastics, and other things, such as a zoology textbook, and one on meteorology, confirming his broad knowledge. Saint Damaskinos was probably also a teacher of one of the last Studites, Saint Dionysios the Orator (+ 1606) who is celebrated on July 9th, and later went to live as an ascetic at Little Saint Anna's on the Holy Mountain.

Despite his extensive education, due to his excellent grasp in the Homeric and Attic dialect, Saint Damaskinos the Studite, Bishop of Liti and Rendini, wrote in a simple and pure Greek dialect for the common people of his time, who had much need of "solid food", namely the word of God. The Thesauros of Damaskinos is the most widely published of his books, which strengthened the enslaved nation in their sufferings and sorrows. His offering was extended when it was translated into Turkish (1731) for those Romans/Greeks who spoke in the Turkish dialect, Serbian (1580) and Russian (1656, 1715). Especially in Bulgaria it is considered that the translation of his book (the Damaskinaria) prevented the Turkification of the Orthodox Bulgarians.

On November 27, 2013 the Sacred Metropolis of Lagada, Liti and Rendini organized the canonization of Saints Akakios and Damaskinos the Studite, who were both Bishops of Liti and Rendini in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Ecumenical Patriarchate approved and the feast of Saint Akakios is now celebrated on August 16th and Saint Damaskinos the Studite on November 27th.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The golden-worded Bishop of Liti and Rendini, then the divinely-adorned president of Nafpaktos and Arta, Damaskinos the divine and wise let us honor with sacred hymns, who taught the people by his book, to him we cry out: Glory to Christ Who gave you wisdom, Glory to Him Who sanctified you, Glory to Him Who dispenses through you the treasury of His graces.

Another Apolytikion in the First Tone
The shepherd of Nafpaktos, all-praised Hierarch, the glorious Studite, renowned student, Bishop of Liti and Rendini, a teacher of piety to the people, and its wise dispenser Damaskinos, we honor you crying out: Glory to Christ Who glorified you, Glory to Him Who crowned you, Glory to Him Who showed you to us in these last days.