July 5

From the Prologue

Athanasius was born in Trebizond of God-fearing parents. He became orphaned at an early age but, by the Providence of God, a commander took him under his care and brought him to Constantinople to be educated. Because of his meekness and humbleness, he was the favorite of his peers. During the children's games, the children chose one to be an emperor, one a commander and Athanasius as abbot as though it was some kind of foretelling! Having completed his education, Athanasius (who before tonsuring was called Abraham) withdrew into the desert of Maleinos near Athos, the Holy Mountain, where he lived the life of an ascetic as a disciple of the then renowned Michael Maleinos. Desiring a more difficult life of mortification, Athanasius settled on Holy Mt. Athos to live in silence (the life of a silentary). But many who were desirous of a life of asceticism began to gather around him and, therefore, he was compelled to build his famous Lavra [monastery]. In that, he was assisted by the Byzantine emperors: at first, Nicephorus Phocas, who himself thought to withdraw and to become a monk and, after him, John Tzimiskes. Countless temptations befell Athanasius both from demons and from men but he, as a brave soldier of Christ, resisted and conquered all by his immeasurable meekness and continual prayer to the Living God. Filled with the Grace of God, Athanasius was made worthy to see the All-holy Birth-giver of God who miraculously brought forth water from a rock and promised that she would also be the abbess [Ikonomisa, the one in charge of the provisions of the monastery]. In work and in prayer, Athanasius surpassed his brethren and loved all with the love a spiritual father and shepherd. Death came to Athanasius unexpectedly. At one time, he with six other monks, climbed upon a newly built vestibule of the church to inspect the wall which was being constructed and the wall caved in on them and buried them. Thus, this great beacon of monasticism died in the year 980 A.D. Many times following his death Athanasius appeared to his brethren either to comfort them or to reprimand them.

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas