Sainted Athanasias I, Patriarch of Constantinople (1289-1293; 1303-1311)

Commemorated on October 24

      Sainted Athanasias I, Patriarch of Constantinople (1289-1293; 1303-1311), in the world Alexios, was from Adrianopolis. While still in his youth, thriving upon the knowledge of the wisdom of Christ, he left his home and went to Thessalonika, where he was tonsured in one of the monasteries with the name Akakios. From there he soon withdrew to Holy Mount Athos and entered the brethren of the Esthygmena monastery, where for three years he served in the refectory. In his works and his ascetic deeds he acquired the gift of tears, and by his virtuous acts he won the overall good-will of the brethren. Shunning praise, Akakios in humility left Athos at first for the holy places in Jerusalem, and then to Mount Patra, where for a long time he asceticised as an hermit. From there the ascetic transferred to the Auxention monastery, and then to Mount Galanteia to the monastery of Blessed Lazarus, where he accepted the great angelic form with the name Athanasias, and received the priestly dignity and became ecclesiarch (holder of church keys). And here the saint was granted a Divine revelation: from a crucifix he heard the Voice of the Lord, summoning him to pastoral service.
      After 10 years, wanting still more to strengthen his spirit in silence and prayer, Saint Athanasias again settled on Mount Athos. But because of disorders arising there he returned to Mount Galanteia. But here also he was not long to remain in solitude. Many people thronged to him for pastoral guidance, and so he organsied a women's monastery there. During this time the cathedra-chair of the Constantinople Church fell vacant after the disturbances and disorder of the period of the patriarch John Bekkos. At the suggestion of the pious emperor Andronikos Paleologos, the Council of hierarchs and clergy in 1289 unanimously chose Saint Athanasias to the cathedra of the OEcumenical Church.
      Patriarch Athanasias began fervently to fulfill his new obedience and did much for strengthening the Church. His strictness of conviction roused the dissatisfaction of influential clergy, and in 1293 he was compelled to resign the cathedra and to retire again to his own monastery, where he asceticised in solitude. In 1303 he was again entrusted the staff of patriarchal service, which he worthily fulfilled for another 7 years. In 1308 Saint Athanasias established as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus' Sainted Peter, Primate of the Russian Church (Comm. 21 December). Again because of some sort of dissatisfaction, and not wanting to be the cause of church discord, Saint Athanasias in 1311 resigned the governance of the Church and departed to his own monastery, devoting himself fully to monastic deeds. Towards the end of his life the saint was again found worthy to behold Christ: the Lord reproached him, that Athanasias had not carried out his pastoral duty to the end. Gushing with tears, the saint repented his cowardice and received from the Lord both forgiveness and the gift of wonderworking. Saint Athanasias died at age 100.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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