February 4, 2021

Holy New Venerable Martyr Anthony of Karyes (+ 1516)

St. Anthony of Karyes (Feast Day - February 4)

Burning with the fire of love for Christ, Anthony,
You were not afraid of being burned by a sensible fire.
On the fourth Anthony you received heavenly respite.

Saint Anthony was a Galician Ruthenian from the region of western Ukraine. His parents were Orthodox Christians, who baptized him with the name Onouphrios. He lived in a country where the Roman Catholic Church prevailed and the Orthodox took every effort to maintain the Orthodox confession, and this is how he was educated and raised.

Unfortunately, despite his upbringing, Onouphrios did not pursue a life of virtue and one that is pleasing to God, but he became an arrogant man in which circumstances led him to commit murder. His Christian upbringing, however, seemed to have created quite deep roots in his soul, so that he would realize what a serious crime he had committed. Then the imperatives of Christian morality awoke in him and a deep feeling of guilt, a fact which led him to pray and offer sincere repentance. This repentance, however, was not enough to remove from him the weight that was pressing on his soul for the crime he had committed, so he thought of proceeding to experience a more permanent repentance, which would guide the rest of his life.

Onouphrios therefore decided to enter Suprasl Monastery in Poland, which is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Theotokos, and there he placed himself under obedience to Elder Paphnutios, the abbot of the monastery and a man of venerable life. This monastery had just been established in 1498, and the date of the repose of Elder Paphnutios is 1510, so we can assume that Onouphrios entered the monastery some time in between this twelve year period. Here Onouphrios fulfilled and even exceeded in his obligations of obedience and prayer and strict ascetic life.

As time passed, Onouphrios felt more and more of a need to atone for the crime he committed, igniting within him the desire to die a martyric death as a sacrifice in the name of Christ. Since the Muslim Turks at the time were often violent against their Christian subjects, he decided to travel to the Turkish occupied lands and openly confess his faith in Christ as the true God, in order to be purified of his sins. Elder Paphnutios had the opposite view, that through sincere repentance he could be saved by the merciful grace of Christ, and so he encouraged Onouphrios to remain calm and go to Mount Athos in order to receive the instructions of the holy fathers there. Before he departed for Mount Athos, Onouphrios was given the Great Schema, and his name was changed to Anthony.

As soon as he reached Mount Athos, Anthony hurried to make known to the fathers his desire for martyrdom, but they, as Paphnutios had done before, prevented him from doing so. When they advised him to practice the basic virtues of a monastic life, namely humility and repentance, they ordered him to live in Karyes, the capital of Mount Athos, in the Cell of Saint Sava of Serbia. This Cell, from the year 1199, followed the monastic rule of Saint Savvas the Sanctified as he established in Jerusalem. This provided for stricter ascetic rules of fasting and prayer. The prestige that this Cell had acquired in the Athonite state, at the end of the 15th and at the beginning of the 16th century was considered such, so that it would have almost a singular position and have its own representative in the Mount Athos Assembly.

Hence, the holy fathers of Mount Athos directed Monk Anthony to be locked in the "tower" of this Cell in order to follow its more strict way of life. They thought that in this way he would abandon his desire for martyrdom, and seek atonement through the very strict life, which was foreseen in the Rule of Saint Savvas. Indeed, Anthony devoted himself to the practice of the strict monastic rule as provided by the Cell.

Just as Anthony was becoming calm and getting settled in his new way of life, news spread throughout Mount Athos of a certain New Martyr named George, and this once again inflamed within his soul the desire for martyrdom. Anthony therefore left Mount Athos and went to Thessaloniki, where he immediately went to the Church of the Panagia Acheiropoietos, which was converted to a mosque in 1430 by Sultan Murad II, father of Mehmet who conquered Constantinople in 1453. The intention of Anthony was to provoke the Turks to murder him. When he entered the church, now a converted mosque, he got on his knees and made the sign of the cross, and this indeed provoked the anger of the Muslims.

Monk Anthony was immediately arrested and subjected to torture, then he was handed over to the Turkish ruler of the city. There he was imprisoned, during which time Anthony kept a strict fast for ten days. After going ten days without any food, he was brought before the ruler who tried to persuade him to embrace Islam. Anthony however remained steadfast in his faith, and became aggressive with the Turks, calling them "dirty dogs" and "inheritors of eternal fire". This attitude had him brought before the judge by the commander, with the recommendation of being burnt alive. The judge however judged Anthony to be not guilty, so had him returned to the commander. When the commander offered him one last chance to renounce his Orthodox Christian faith and embrace Islam, Anthony strongly refused, and for this his body was given over to the flames, turning his body into dust, which the Turks scattered in the air so as not to be used by the Christians as sacred relics. The death penalty by fire was common for the new martyrs at that time, and we see it being imposed in other cases as well.

The dating of the martyrdom of the New Martyr Anthony can only be determined by indirect indications. The fact that the sheets containing his martyrdom have been added to the manuscripts of the Monastery of Suprasl, at the spot where the saints who are honored on February 4 are mentioned, determines the day of his martyrdom and commemoration. The year must be determined approximately on the basis of the martyrdom of the New Martyr George of Kratovo. For this we know that he was martyred on February 11, 1515. The news and the details of his martyrdom, which caused Anthony to make a final decision to proceed towards his own martyrdom, should not have taken too long to arrive at Mount Athos. Thus, with this information, it is logical to accept that the New Martyr Anthony was martyred on February 4 of the following year, that is, of 1516. 

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Offspring of Russia, boast of Poland, Anthony the newly-appeared athlete of Christ, let us the faithful together honor, having firmly contested on behalf of Christ. He appeared as a new star of Athos, the boast of Thessaloniki. Glory to Him Who gave you strength, glory to Him Who made you wondrous, glory to Him Who through you fulfills our requests.