The Holy MonkMartyr Athanasii

Commemorated on July 20

      The Holy MonkMartyr Athanasii (Afanasii) of Bretsk (Uncovering and Transfer of Relics 1649): The martyr's death of the holy Passion-bearer Athanasii, Hegumen of Bretsk, transpired on 5 September 1648 (the account about his life and deeds are located under this day). For the space of eight months the body of the sufferer for Orthodoxy lay in the ground without church funeral. On 1 May 1649 a boy pointed out to the brethren of the Simeonovsk monastery the place of burial of the hegumen. The ground in which the martyr was buried belonged at the time to the Jesuits, and therefore they had to go to work secretly. At night the monks dug up the undecayed body of the hegumen and immediately took it off to another place, and in the morning to their monastery, where after several days, on 8 May, they buried him with honour at the right-side kleros (choir) in the main church of the monastery dedicated in honour of the Monk Simeon the Stylite.
      The earthly life of the MonkMartyr Athanasii had come to an end, but the remembrance of him remained always alive and sacred among the Orthodox inhabitants of the west Russian frontier. The profound veneration of believers here for his holy name, and the undecayed relics of the monk-martyr placed in a copper reliquary, were glorified by grace-abundant gifts of wonderworking and attracted a vast number of believers.
      On 8 November 1815 at the time of a fire occurring at the Bretsk Simeonovsk monastery, the wooden monastery church burned, and the copper reliquary, in which the relics of the monk-martyr were kept, melted in the flames of the conflagration. The day following the fire an unharmed portion of the relics were found by the priest Samuel of Lisovsk and placed by the pious inhabitants of the city of Bretsk beneathe the altar of the monastery refectory church. In the year 1823, with the blessing of the archbishop of Minsk Anatolii, the holy relics were placed in a wooden vessel by the head of the monastery and put in church for veneration.
      It pleased God to bestow miraculous power and by this preserved a portion of the relics of the MonkMartyr Athanasii.
      In finely drawn traces there rises up before us this priestly image of the great champion of Orthodoxy, unsparing for faith and neighbour. Deeply religious, inexorably devoted to the faith of the holy fathers, he became bold of spirit and expressed by word and by deed his priestly indignation against the oppression of Orthodox Christians by the haughty Latino-Uniates. With fervent faith in his calling by God he entered into the struggle for his oppressed brethren. "I am not a prophet, but only a servant of God my Creator, sent in accord with the times, in order to speak to everyone the truth... He for this hath sent me, so that I might proclaim beforetime the destruction of the accursed Unia". Suchlike were the words of the fervent, unyielding and inspired struggler for Orthodoxy, deeply believing in the victorious power of the true faith-confession.
      The complete affirmation of Orthodoxy and the final and total undoing of the Unia Saint Athanasii saw in this his single goal, the realisation for which he gave up his holy life. Besides this end, there was naught other than as he already lived in his personal life. Having submitted to the will of God, he had no thought for dangers, nor considered the obstacles, to fulfill his holy duty. His daring, spiritually-inspired speech and writings of petition, his published grievances against the gatherings and voluntary folly in Christ the MonkMartyr Athanasii tried all these expedients for the attainment and triumph of his sacred goal the affirmation of Orthodoxy in the ancient Russian land. One time, having repudiated the Unia, he was inspired with a deep sense of pity and love towards those who had become the victims of Uniate complicity. The righteousness and sincerity of Saint Athanasii in relation to those nearby defined the course of all his deeds. By his existence in the solitary life, surrounded by open and hidden enemies, the holy ascetic remained a steadfast defender and pillar of Orthodoxy, strengthened only by the light of faith in its solemnity and veracity. A martyr's death did not frighten him, wherefore he preached the fulfillment of his prophetic prediction: "The Unia will die out, but Orthodoxy will flourish".

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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