Thursday, January 10, 2013

St. Antipa from Calapodeşti and Valaam

Saint Antipa, a monk who lived in the nineteenth century in Moldova, Mount Athos and Valaam Monastery in Russia, is known as „Antipa from Calapodeşti” in Romania, or „Antipa from Valaam” in Russia.

His life he was written by Pimen, abbot of the Monastery of Valaam in northern Russia and a former disciple of the saint, and later included into the so-called "Paterikon (Book containing the lives of the fathers) of Valaam” . The abbot stated that the the parents of the saint were holy close to the church’s life. His father, George Constantin Luchian was a deacon at the church Calapodeşti - village, situated somewhere in the hills region between Bacau and Bârlad - and his mother, Ecaterina Manase later became nun Elizabeth. The couple had no children for a long time, but eventually, their prayers have been answered and God has given them a child in 1816, which they have christened as Alexander, the baptism ceremony being celebrated in the village church.
In the writing about the monks from Valaam monastery saints there is told that the child Alexandru had had unusual powers, so that he got poisonous snakes in his hands and, to the surprise and horror of all, they haven’t done any harm to him.
He taught at the village school book, and this time his father died, leaving him an orphan. To live, he had to learn the art of binding books to help support the family also.
At the age of 20 years, "without warning he was overwhelmed with inexpressible and glorious light, which filled his heart with untold joy". Soon he left his family and went to Neamţ Monastery, one of the largest convents in Moldova, but he was not accepted by the abbot form here. He then went to a monastery in Wallachia; it seems to be Căldăruşani, where it was in high esteem the Athonite monastic order, imposed by Elder Paisie from Neamţ (1722-1794) and his apprentice, Gheorghe from Cernica (1730-1806). Here Alexander was accepted as a novice and later the abbot tonsured him, giving him the name Alipie (Alypios).
At age of 20 he entered the monastery of Brazi, where he led a life of deprivation for two years. Soon he received a much respected charisma in the Eastern tradition, namely the "gift of tears". The hermit Gideon who has been living in seclusion already from 30 years, became his professor for the incessant practice of the "mental prayer" (also known as „Jesus Prayer”, containing the words: „Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner”).

As a novice at Brazi, in 1842, he witnessed the discovery of the relics of Metropolitan Theodosius and wrote how that has happened (see the article about St. Teodosie from Brazi, celebrated on September 22).
The saint remained at Brazi for two years and later went to the Holy Mountain of Athos, the "University” of the Eastern Monks. Hes stopped first near a cell of two Romanian monks near Lacu hermitage and later settled in Esphigmenou, where he served for four years in the kitchen.
.During this period he received "great schema" of monasticism, which requires strict fasting, uninterrupted prayer and worship, being once more tonsured as "skimonachos (hermit monk, or in english „skemamonk”) Antipa”. Soon he was ordained deacon and then priest (that means, his title was now „hieroskemamonk”), living in an isolated cell.
After about 20 years at Athos, in 1860, Antipa moved to the new hermitage called Prodromu, a Romanian skete founded by two Moldovan monks, Nifon and Nectarie, finished and consecrated in 1863. Antipa was asked to go to Moldova and raise aid for the completion of the building work, so he setteled for a while in Bucium Metoc from Iaşi, the capital city of Moldova (metoc, or in Greek, metokion, is a monastic dependency placed in a town under the jurisdiction of a monastery, which provides food and money for the monastery’s needs). First appointed for the administration and later as confessor of this dependency, his name comes to be known here, so many believers started to see him as a true example of humility, love and truly Christian living. His strict fasting (he would not eat for days on end), seriousness, zeal, love, kindness and humility (which he kept even in the midst of arguments which still happened) drew people to him. It is said that Metropolitan Sofronie (Miclescu) of Moldova particularly respected him and that that respect was mutual.
Valaam monastery and its churches
Fr Nifon had the idea of going to Russia to get financial help for the skete, taking with him none other than the humble and wise Antipa. This is the way how Antipa went to Russia. He stopped in Kiev, in order to worship the relics of the saints from Pecerska Lavra, then went to Moscow, and finally to St. Petersburg, where he received many aids from various metropolitans, abbots of monasteries and another Christian believers. He was honored especially by Metropolitans Isidore of St Petersburg and Philaret of Moscow. They were themselves spiritual man, the second was canonized as a saint and is celebrated on 19 November.

Antipa was found worthy to take part in the finding of other relics, namely those of St Tikhon of Zadonsk and invited to take part in the procession by Metropolitan Isidore in person.
There is more to say that St. Antipa had a special piety for the Mother of God who, as the traditions state, showed to him and helped on many occasions and in special needs. That happened once more when Antipa went to Valaam Monastery, situated on an island of Ladoga Lake, near Finland, which impressed him in a particular way. Wherefore, after sending the aids to Prodromu Hermitage in November 1865, he sat forever at Valaam, in cell from the hermitage dedicated to All Saints. He continued here his spiritual struggles, and tried to be useful in the congregation. He has come to receive the Holy Spirit's gifts of prophecy and vision in spirit.

He was of exemplary asceticism. In his cell there was no bed or chair and he used just a rough blanket on the floor. He used not to taste or to drink anything on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, and in the first week of Lent, and for the other days it was enough for him the food he received Saturdays at noon.
Due to his chosen life, he came to be known in the northern Russia and many monks and believers used to visit him for special services and sermons. Under his direction there were formed many disciples, who followed him into his spiritual path.
After 17 years of this way of living, on January 10, 1882, aged 66 years, the Venerable Antipa passed away foreknowing three days earlier about that. After another sources, he would have suffered an apoplectic attack. He was buried in a crypt of the monastery of Valaam, near the chapel in honor of the Passion of Christ, where the pilgrims could easily come and celebrate his requiem.

The veneration of St. Antipa

 Being known and honored by all for his worthiness, the Abbot Pimen, one of his disciples, wrote and printed the saint’s life in 1883 in St. Petersburg, under the title: "The Life worthy of the memory of Venerable („ieroskimonah”) Antipa”. The book quickly spread and was printed again in 1893.
His fame as a saint was maintained both in Russia and Mount Athos, by those who knew him in life or from the book. So that, in 1906 (24 years after his death) the Russian monks from the monastery of St. Panteleimon of Mount Athos (also known as Rusikon), wrote in Church Slavon his liturgical sevice into the Russian Menologion for January 10. It is therefore sanctification without a formal act of canonization, only by writing his name in the Menologion.
Relics of the Saint in Valaam Monastery
In accordance with his will, he was interred outside the walls of the skete, so that the pilgrims and
Spiritual children who revered him would have unfettered access to his grave. In 1960, locals opened Elder Antipas’ grave with the intent of looting it. Signs of that disinterment remained over the years prior to the restoration of monastic life in Valaam. In May 14, 1991 the relics of the Venerable Antipa were uncovered, and were found to spread a strong myrrh scent. They were moved, after the memorial service, to the church of Sergius and Herman of Valaam, on September 24 (11) 1991, where there are until today.
Valaam monastery
In Romania, the monk Antipa was until recently less known than in Russia. Therefore his name was wrote much later into the Romanian calendars, namely in 1992, being celebrated on January 10 (the day of his death, corresponding in the Russian Church Calendar with 23 January). In 1997 the local Christians founded a monastery at Calapodeşti, dedicated to All Saints Sunday (the first after Pentecost) and St. Antipa, who was born here.
The Relics of Saint Antipa are at Valaam Monastery in Russia, as stated above, but small parts of relics can be found in other places such as Christiana Monastery in Bucharest, Suruceni monastery in Moldova (the right arm) and the monastery of Calapodeşti.
Calapodeşti church

Troparion (hymn) of the Saint

You showed yourself as most wise adviser of monks and earthly angel, Holy Father Blessed Antipa, restraining your body with the passionless and illuminating the hearts of believers with the glow of your virtues. Therefore you have made yourself a honored place of the Holy Spirit, and in heaven you found God’s reward for your labors, whom ask to grant us great mercy!
Relics of the Saint in Calapodeşti, Romania
Relics of the Saint in Calapodeşti, Romania

Another troparion of the Saint

Arching over the earth like a rainbow, you got from the Holy Mountain Athos into the north, at Valaam. O Holy Father Antipa, much praised, you made yourself as the wonderful Old Men of Moldova, and now you are living in the heavenly glory of Valaam. Ask Christ our God to counsel us to the angelic life!

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