Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saints Barnabas, Sophronios and Christopher, Founders of Soumela Monastery

Sts. Barnabas, Sophronios and Christopher (Feast Day - August 18)

Our Venerable Fathers Barnabas and Sophronios were the founders of the Monastery of the Panagia of Soumela in Trebizond in the late fourth century. According to tradition, these two Saints, who were relatives (Barnabas was the uncle and Sophronios was his nephew) were born and raised in Athens in the fourth century. Barnabas’s name in the world was Basil, and that of his nephew Soterichos.

While celebrating the Divine Liturgy one day, Barnabas in a vision received a command from the Theotokos to go from Athens to Trebizond to build a monastery there. Under the protection of the icon of Panagia Atheniotissa, which was believed to have been painted by the Evangelist Luke, they came through many dangers and vicissitudes to the unhospitable side of Mount Melas, where in the year 386 they built the famous Monastery of the Panagia of Soumela, now making it the home of the icon of the Atheniotissa.

On their way to Trebizond they went to the Holy Mountain, and more specifically to the Monastery of Vatopaidi, where the Abbot received them with reverence and they enjoyed the hospitality of the monastery for a week. Though the Abbot wished to detain them, so that the brotherhood could benefit by their presence, he was compelled in a miraculous manner to let them leave, so that they could fulfill the purpose which the Theotokos had set them.

In the monastery which they had built the two saints lived a life of holiness, and tradition tells us that they both died on the same day in 412.


Many began to come on pilgrimage to Panagia Soumeliotissa (formerly Atheniotissa) and the monastery enjoyed fame, prosperity, and imperial favor. But later, when barbarians began to invade, the monastery dwindled and was eventually deserted. The monastery was sacked and there were failed attempts by the invaders to destroy the icon, but the monks returned and the monastery again flourished, until the seventh century, when Muslims slaughtered the monks.

Meanwhile, the Panagia appeared to a nearby illiterate farmer, Christopher, and sent him to the ruined monastery to renew and revive it. The Theotokos continued to guide him as he moved to the monastery, where he found that the cave-church and icon were miraculously safe. She herself taught him to read, and at length other men came to join him. Pilgrims again returned and great wonders were accomplished through the icon - even demoniacs were healed. Roman emperors became patrons of the monastery. One of them, Alexios Comnenos II (+ 1330), personally journeyed to the monastery to give thanks for deliverance from death.


Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
By the annointing of the Divine Child, you abandoned the cares of life, and each were radiantly initiated into strange mysteries, as a phoenix in the courts of the Lord, you truly prospered, Barnabas, Sophronios and Christopher, intercede with Christ God, O thrice-praised Fathers, that our souls be saved.

Another Apolytikion in the First Tone
The three radiant lights of the three-sunned Godhead, who shone forth radiantly from the choir of monastics, as initiates and venerators of the Theotokos, and God-bearers annointed by the command of the Pure One, Barnabas the most-exalted, and the God-bearer Sophronios, with the noble Christopher, taught by God from nothing, all of those who honor their life, let us gather and honor them with hymns, for they ever intercede with the Trinity for us.


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