March 16, 2024

A Liturgical Custom of Skiathos for the Saturday of Cheesefare

By Konstantinos Koutoubas,
Theologian, Iconographer, Professor of Byzantine Music

A week after the common Saturday of Souls, the Triodion presents a complete Service for the Saturday of Cheesefare, during which "we commemorate all our Venerable God-bearing Fathers who shined as ascetics." All those who lived as monastics and ascetics and managed to attain the heavenly kingdom, after striving to receive not the crown of martyrdom, but the crown of patience and asceticism, are therefore remembered. All the Venerables, that is, those who became sanctified as ascetics and monastics.

The Service of the Triodion has a semi-celebratory character, with an Apolytikion and Kathismata in the Matins, a complete Canon (which, corresponding to the Saturday of Souls and in exhortation to mourning for the coming fast, also contains the mournful Second Ode), Praises, Doxastikon and a Great Doxology.

In the troparia of the Canon, all the great Ascetics of Christianity are mentioned alphabetically, from the first years of Asceticism to the last of the struggling Iconophiles and Hesychasts, all the authors of the Gerontikon, the Philokalia and the Neptic Texts, the Great Cenobiarchs and also Hermits. Venerable women of monasticism are also mentioned alphabetically, as well as the greatest and most representative Fathers of the Church.

Therefore, on the Saturday of Cheesefare, all the Venerable men and women of our Church are presented as models of asceticism, patience, humility and love, who with their humility and their love for God and fellow man cultivated the virtues and acquired the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In the liturgical tradition of Skiathos, this day is of particular importance, as it is the Osiako (Venerable) or, as others call it, Kalogeriko (Monastic) Psychosavvato (Saturday of Souls). On this day, and after the Behind the Pulpit Prayer, the officiating priest, after chanting the Trisagion, goes out to the Beautiful Gate holding in his hands the Diptychs of the Temple, which is on a wooden surface on which all the names of the Liturgists Who Have Fallen Asleep are written, and under the icon of the Master Christ, he commemorates them all, out loud and by name.

Not only the previous rectors of the Parish are commemorated, but all those who served the Heavenly Altar "from the beginning to the last", throughout the two thousand year presence of Christianity in Skiathos, and in every Temple and Monastery of the island.

All the Bishops are commemorated first, from the first Bishop of Skiathos known in historical records, Straton, who built the Roman Pier below the site of Ai Yiannakis in the 4th century, and Anastasios, whose obituary is inscribed on the outer wall of the Parish Church of Panagia of Limnia, which was once used as a Holy Altar to the Bishops of the Medieval Fortress of Skiathos, the Castle, to the last Bishop of Skiathos and Skopelos, Eugenios, shortly after the Revolution. Included also are the later Pastors and Metropolitans who presided over the small province of the Sporades, until the last, the late Metropolitan of Halkidos, Chrysostomos I.

Next, all the Priests who ministered on the island, from the Byzantine and Medieval years, to the more recent times, from the time of Papadiamantis and later, are commemorated, as well as contemporary rectors of our days, rectors who are pure, beloved, unforgettable and at the same time imprinted in the memory with the brightest in color images, to radiate joyfully the good alteration which is sanctified by prayer. With the rectors of all the Parishes of Skiathos, the Hierodeacons who ministered in Temples and Monasteries, as well as all the Hieromonks of the Monasteries of the island are commemorated. One can distinguish the figures of the Holy Hieromonk Neilos, who in the 18th century founded the Dionysiou Metochion of the Honorable Forerunner, outside the Castle, and was buried there, near the Medieval Fortress. The Hieromonk Symeon, to whom the Panagia was revealed with that blinding Light that never came before and who was the first to see the miraculous Icon of our Panagia Eikonistria, the Patroness of Skiathos. But also the largely sanctified Nephon, the builder of the Kollyvadon Monastery of the Annunciation in Skiathos, as well as the abbots and rectors of all the Monasteries of the island.

The last to be remembered are all those who exchanged their earthly life for the heavenly and angelic schema, all the monks and nuns of both the old and new monasteries, of Evangelistria, of Kounistria, of the women's monastery of Ai Yiannis the Panagia in Aselinos, Kechrias and Ai Haralambis .

This liturgical custom that the Temples of Skiathos preserve to this day is a great event and a cause for celebration as it testifies to the Unity of the Body of the Lord, both of the Church Militant and of the Church Triumphant. It also reveals the extent to which the liturgical tradition of our Church is adopted and assimilated with the local ecclesiastical tradition of Skiathos, which was so influenced by the Athonite state. On this day, the Parishes of Skiathos highlight and commemorate not only the Venerables of the Church, but also those who have served the local church over time, clothed in the grace of the Priesthood and "bearing the Cross as a yoke". The local Church invites its members to be inspired and imitate them, connecting each of us historically and experientially through the succession of the Priesthood of Christ and the Apostles with these holy persons, cultivating in the most beautiful way, priestly vocations, but also exhorting all to asceticism and sanctification. Let us have their blessing. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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