January 30, 2024

The Three Hierarchs and Mount Athos (Monk Moses the Athonite)

The Three Hierarchs and Mount Athos

By Monk Moses the Athonite

The three greatest luminaries of the three-sunned divinity have some, little known, relationship with this Holy Mountain of the Triune God and the Mother of God.

An ancient and sacred tradition of the Athonites speaks of the revealer of heavenly things Basil, the lover of silence, the ascetic of Pontus, the rule maker of our monasticism, to be an ascetic on a slope of Mount Athos. There "exists there on a rocky and rough place the old skete named after Saint Basil, after a kyriakon temple that is still preserved."

Precious relics of the Saint are kept in many monasteries. The most valuable one is preserved in Great Lavra and is certainly the most cherished gift of the emperor Nikephoros Phokas to his friend the venerable Athanasios, who asked for it himself. In the imperial chrysobull of 964 it is mentioned: "(The all-holy and most-venerable divine head) of the greatest luminary of the ecumene and the ecumenical teacher and hierarch of the great Caesarea of Cappadocia, Saint Basil the Great, arrived as you requested... and is hereby given." The venerable builder of the Lavra with his rules is considered the founder of Basilian monasticism in Athos.

Saint Gregory, the hesychast hierarch, the poet of his Maker, makes his presence alive on the saint-loving mountain with his fragrant and grace-flowing relics. In Vatopaidi Monastery, the greater part of his head is kept. In fact, Patriarch Chrysanthos notes about the validity of the relic:

"We unhesitatingly declare that the in question revered and sacred head of our holy Father Gregory the Great and Theologian, the spiritually inexhaustible treasure and priceless relic in the sacred and venerable Royal Monastery of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos of Vatopaidi on the Holy Mountain of Athos exists certainly and most truly, which is also testified in the ever-old ledgers and codexes of the Monastery and the Skevophylakion, yes, even determined in patriarchal letters, and by the punctate scar around the eye, he undoubtedly acquired."

The lower limbs of the Saint are preserved in the monasteries of Hilandari and Saint Paul. In the Gregoriou Monastery, there is a small portion of his head, with the head of his father Gregory of Nazianzus and other pieces in other monasteries.

The miraculous relics of the divine and sacred Chrysostom, as heavenly hierlooms, are found in many monasteries. His right hand in a position of blessing "within a silver-gilt covering" – the one that blessed the troubled dead Eudoxia and calmed her down – is in the Philotheou Monastery. It is mentioned as a gift from Emperor Theodosius II and is of course the greatest treasure of the monastery together with the miraculous icon of Glykophilousa.

In Great Lavra, the brother emperors Basil II and Constantine VIII, in 978, donated "a gold-braided stone-studded box", which, together with other relics, contains "the divine arm with skin of the most great voiced and golden preacher of repentance, Saint John the Chrysorrimonos...".

The honor of the holy relics in Orthodoxy and especially on Mount Athos is an act of reverence and respect for these pure vessels of the spirit, the bodies that lived in asceticism and were sanctified and their grace is manifest, rich and varied. Crouched Elders of the Mountain, from the asceticism and weight of decades, with a child's longing before the holy relics, do laid out prostrations, venerate them and embrace them insatiably with tears.

Temples, chapels, monasteries and cells are dedicated to the memory of the Three Hierarchs. One of the oldest temples of the Saints is the Iveron cell, which was the "old and once flourishing" Monastery of Saravaris. Many Byzantine icons and frescoes adorn their katholikon and katholika churches.

Hundreds upon hundreds of their manuscripts and copies, eaten up by use, with their melodious rivers of wisdom are found in the rich libraries, where generations of monks were nurtured within them. Much-loved liturgical pamphlets by venerable hieromonks are distributed in the place where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated every day, in the place with the thousand holy altars. In the temples, cenobitic refectories and cells, the monks rejoice in the divinely inspired writings of these great saints.

Many bear their names and like them "of all beings chose to live together with God". In their memory there are multi-toned hymns by tireless chanters and ministers, with the well-known Athonite order. With deep voices they refer to their salvific intercessions.

Together with the chanters at their annual synaxis, "let us all everywhere praise the divine archbishops, saying: All-Holy Teachers, hasten to remove from the faithful the scandals of life...".

Source: Ο ΟΣΙΟΣ ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΣ, published by Gregoriou Monastery of the Holy Mountain, vol. 9 (1984), p. 41. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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