January 22, 2018

Saint Arsenios, Archbishop of Kerkyra (+ 953)

St. Arsenios of Kerkyra (Feast Day - January 19)

Saint Arsenios was born during the reign of Emperor Basil the Macedonian (867-886) in the year 876 and grew up in Jerusalem. His father was originally from Jerusalem, while his mother was from Bethany. When he was three years old, his parents dedicated him to a monastery in Bethany, and at the age of twelve was tonsured a monk. His parents also became monastics and reposed in a monastery. Later he left Jerusalem for Seleucia, where he furthered his education and was ordained a priest. He then returned to Jerusalem, but on the way his ship was seized by pirates and he was taken captive, however he managed to free himself by virtue of his words of persuasion. Since his parents had reposed and after venerating the holy places, he once again departed, this time for Constantinople, where he served under Patriarch Tryphonos (928-931).

Under the successor to Tryphonos, Patriarch Theophylaktos (933-956), he was elected to become the Bishop of Kerkyra due to his great virtue. As a shepherd he was distinguished for living up to the standards of the precepts of the gospel and he sought to meet all the spiritual needs of the people. He was also the first Bishop of Kerkyra to bear the title of Metropolitan (Archbishop). In 953, however, Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (911-959), after a catastrophic raid on the island by the Slavs that the Saint intervened in and thus helped save the island, asked random people from Kerkyra to present themselves to him in Constantinople to respond to a slanderous accusation, so Arsenios undertook to settle things and went to Constantinople. On his return, however, he died on the road near Corinth. From there he was transferred to Kerkyra, where his sacred relics, by the grace of God, performed many miracles in the Metropolitan Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

The Angevins occupied Kerkyra from 1267 to 1386, and deposed the Orthodox Bishop who was replaced by a Latin Bishop. Therefore the Metropolitan Church also came under the occupation of the Latins, who allowed the Orthodox to honor their patron Saint Arsenios every year on January 19th. The relics were under Latin occupation till 1633, though Orthodox were allowed to venerate them, and in 1659 they were brought to another Latin church and were treasured in a new reliquary. They stayed under Latin occupation into the nineteenth century. Today portions of his relics can be found at the Monastery of Pantokratoros in Kerkyra and the Monastery of Saint Meletios in Attica, and he is primarily associated with the Church of Saint Arsenios in Lefkimmi, Kerkyra where a portion of his relics also are located. Although he was once considered a primary patron saint of Kerkyra, his popularity began to wane when Saint Spyridon's relics arrived at the island and began working numerous wonders and miracles.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You faithfully bore the fruit, of the grace of wisdom, and a most-sacred shepherd, of the Church of Christ, you showed yourself to be Arsenios, wherefore in Kerkyra, you famously appeared prominent, steering your people, towards laws of truth. And now your entreaties, save your servants.