Friday, May 1, 2009

Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos the Righteous of Arta

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The bell tower of St. Sophia's Church in Arta, Greece (taken from: 

The following is an amateur translation of the life of Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos, two brothers and monastics from Arta, Greece who lived at the end of the 18th to beginning of the 19th century. It is taken from the Metropolis of Arta website at:

 The feast of Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos was originally celebrated by the people on the Wednesday of Renewal (Bright) Week, but more recently in has been officially moved to the second Sunday after Pascha: the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers. May they intercede for all of us!

The Life of the righteous brothers, Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos of Arta (amateur translation)

In every age God brings forth holy people who, though they live in the same times and ways of life as their fellow people, “fight the good fight of faith”, and enlighten as spiritual lamps everyone, whom they serve in the name of our Lord.

In an era that was difficult for our whole [Greek] nation (the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century), God gave the blessing to our city to have two brothers in the flesh, Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos, be born, live, struggle in asceticism, teach and become holy.

The first years of their lives The righteous brothers Theocharis and Apostolos were the children of the pious priest Fr. George Douia, from the church of St. Sophia in Arta, and the virtuous Presbytera Photini. God graced them with three sons (the third was named Konstantinos), who were raised from childhood in the law of the Lord. They took care first of all that they became men of God and the goal of their earthly lives should be the path towards heaven and of their sanctification. They put great care into forming their children, who ended up becoming some of the finest in their city.

The oldest son Theocharis (born around 1760) paid great attention to learning. He was taught at the school of Manolaki Kastoriote, where the great teacher and chanter Dimitrios Economopoulos Bandrames (from Mesollogi) was. St. Theocharis was taught, but with his holy life also taught his fellow students, many of whom later followed him and became priests and monks. From this age, the power of the Saint’s word was revealed, which came from a heart aflame with the love of God.

And the «simple and pure in soul» St, Apostlos was taken under his father’s wing himself.

The two brothers Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos had a special affinity and love for the ecclesiastical life, and with unique humility and reverence they served their priest/father in his liturgical position. In fact, their whole family was an unending source of love and sacrifice, both physically and spiritually to their fellow men and their parishioners.

The joy of their parents was great for their children’s progress and good works. The heart of this most pious priest danced at the notion and promise of seeing his two sons liturgizing at the super-heavenly altar. Such a holy love of the faith this virtuous priest had! In reality, with great care he advised his two sons to become priests, of which there is nothing more holy or blessed on the earth. He also made requests to the Metropolitan of Arta to ordain his sons in the church of St. Sophia where he liturgized.

The response of the wise youths was: “Don’t rush father. Everything is in God’s hands.” The Saints saw the height and grandeur of the Priesthood of Christ, and did not seek it, but like the great Fathers of our Church, fled with awe and piety from this great honor.

This blessed priest wanted his first son Theocharis to get married and afterwards to become a priest. God had arranged something else for him. St. Theocharis made the decision to follow the angelic commonwealth, in other words, the path of asceticism and the monastic way of life, and he related with great seriousness: “I am thinking that when I finish my studies and reach the legal age, I will go where Divine Providence will enlighten me to go and what to do.”

Along with his parents, the Metropolitan praised him for his foresight and looked forward to enlightening their local church with the decision to ordain them.

When St. Theocharis finished his studies, the family of the holy Priest George Douia, according to the consent of God, was tested. The two parents, Fr. George and Presbytera Photini, fell asleep in the Lord. They left peacefully from the world however, because they did all that they could do to pay back their debt to God and their fellow men by offering back to their children the notable estate and inheritance.

This estate, which they tried to give to their children, was their true and known faith, their holy lives, and their path according to God above the honors of faith and country.

Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos, like good older brothers, took care of their younger brother Konstantinos. When he became a man, they saw to his marriage. From this marriage with Sossani, they had two sons: George and Theocharis. When Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos saw their brother establishing a family, they withdrew to a small house near St. Sophia’s church and fled from worldly things.

St. Sophia's Church in Arta (taken from:

Of the same blood and the same dwelling

The two brothers, far from the things of the world, ceaselessly threw themselves into great ascetical struggles with courage and bravery. Ceaseless prayer, meditation on the word of God, all-night standing, soul-strengthening fasting, silence and perseverance, repentance and all-fervent love towards God were their daily works and life.

The first biographer of their, Archimandrite Konstantinos, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Kato Panagias, remarked that the bread they placed in an earthenware container with a small opening (such that only one hand could fit in) to limit the amount of their food. But when some pious and merciful Christians brought them food, they would thank them, and received it with good wishes and prayers, not to savor it—not in the least—but to show mercy to their many fellow men who were found in poor and difficult states. When they would take the food to them, they would remark that they had already eaten enough, and that they should take the rest. Naturally, they would tell those they would help not to tell anyone of their actions.

Their food was confined to bread and water until sunset. A few times they ate a little fruit.

The famous Monastery of Kato Panagias, the only Byzantine monastery in Arta still inhabited (taken from:

And though they did not have the monastic schema and were not tonsured monks, they followed the canon of the Great Monastic schema with exactitude. They communed the Holy Mysteries once per week, and followed the life and example of the fathers and ascetics of their day, the spirit of which was also passed to them by the teaching of St. Kosmas Aitolos.

They did not leave their small house unless there was a serious need, or when their love towards those who sought them, dictated service and sacrifice. In this way, St. Theocharis first began to teach letters in Artinopoula in the small and grace-filled chapel of Panagia Kassopitras (Kassiope) until 1818. There he taught not only secular letters and did not impart stale ideas, but chiefly cultivated the soul, watering with the clear waters of faith and of the Gospel, and established in them love of the desert and service to their country. It is not surprising that from this teacher came many excellent students, including the head of the Society of Friends Nicholas Skoufas from Kombotiou. Truly, who can count the heartbeats of the student and the teacher in trasmitting teaching about life? [ποιος μπορεί να μετρήσει τους παλμούς της καρδιάς δασκάλου και μαθητή μέσα στη διαδικασία μετάγγισης ζωής;] Who can outline here in so few words, what occurred in the soul of the youth Skoufas, hearing this fiery teacher?

The work of the Righteous Theocharis was notable, and great was the spiritual profit of the faithful of Arta from his godly homilies in the church of the Agioi Anargyroi (the Holy Unmercenaries).

The Righteous Theocharis offered his untiring services to the Metropolis of Arta without seeking recognition, during the time when the Metropolitan was the Abbot of the Holy Monastery of the Theotokos, Benediktos “the magnificent and merciful”. Benediktos, honoring this great and holy person, called him to work as his secretary. St. Theocharis, due to the weight and the trouble of this work, and the trials of a priest came up with an excuse. He did not allow himself to accept this idea, so he pretended to be sick and returned to his beloved cell, where he found consolation in the prayer of Jesus and in many prostrations.

[This was a particularly difficult portion for me to translate. Here is the original Greek in case I made any errors: Ο Θεοχάρης παρά το φόρτο και τον κόπο της εργασίας αυτής ουδέποτε παραπονέθηκε και αρνήθηκε κάτι, παρά μόνο σε περιπτώσεις διαζυγίου, αφωρισμού και τιμωρίας ιερέα. Η αγία του ψυχή και η συνείδησή του δεν το άντεχε, γι’αυτό προσποιούνταν τον άρρωστο και κατέφευγε στο αγαπητό του κελλί όπου έβρισκε παρηγοριά στην προσευχή του Ιησού και στις πολυάριθμες μετάνοιες.]

Benedict, after entreating the Saint many times, understood that this work wouldn’t suit St. Theocharis, and he excused him from his position to dedicate all time to prayer and the meditation on the word of God and of the holy Fathers. On this ascetical path his fellow traveler and fellow ascetic was St. Apostolos, his brother according to the flesh and the spirit.
The Righteous Brothers loved the solitary life completely. Only St. Apostolos would leave from their small ascetical dwelling in the heart of the city to purchase their necessities and to work their small vineyard.

It is mentioned that the Saints had two jugs for water. During the night they would go to the fountain to refill them where the women would fill theirs during the day. This they did because they were lovers of silence and prayer. With such a station and prayer they strengthened the faithful of the city during the period of the great and fatal plagues which hit Arta, the first on May 2nd of 1816, and the second in 1823.

The two brothers did not distance themselves from the city, but day and night locked themselves up in their cell and prayed for God through the intercessions of St. Bessarion (whose skull the people of Arta brought and proceeded with in litany) to drive away the plague, while the faithful held processions around their houses. With their station, the holy brothers gave strength and courage to the inhabitants of the city who honored them with much reverence.

The dormition of the Righteous Theocharous
A righteous and God-loving life and a righteous and peaceful end comes.

St. Theocharis foresaw the hour of his death and called his brother and fellow athlete St. Apostolo to bring the priest to come and commune him at noon on Holy Friday. The priest, troubled and reverent, came to the small house where the righteous Theocharis, with a special piety communed the Holy Mysteries for the last time. After giving his final instructions and wishes to the «simple and pure in soul St, Apostlos » . He urged him first of all to continue with the same zeal the same God-loving and philanthropic ascetical life. His wish was that the Metropolitan of Arta be at his funeral and that he be buried in the church of the Holy Unmercenaries and that his remains never be unearthed. Their house, in the end, should be given to the holy church of St. Sophia, where their father himself had his first and notable spiritual experiences.

The news of his death on Holy Friday of 1828 summoned pain and sorrow to the faithful of Arta, who with reverence and piety all hastened to the funeral service, which was presided over by the Metropolitan of Arta Neophytos. Neophytos, with a few simple and moving words delivered the eulogy, offered the virtues, the faith and the ascetical life of St. Theocharis and challenged the faithful to imitate his holy life. He himself prayed for himself to be granted these great blessings and to pass away on such a great day. In reality, the following year, 1829, this pious hierarch left for the Lord on Holy Friday.

At the funeral of this Righteous one many “unspeakable and great miracles” occurred. The four lamps of the casket, which because of the funeral procession were extinguished, spontaneously lit up, and an indescribable fragrance enveloped his holy body. This fragrance filled the church of the Holy Unmercenaries and the small house where the Saint lived. Another witness mentions that at the hour of the funeral service, the candles of the polyeleos [the large chandelier in the center of the church] in the church of the Holy Unmercenaries lit on their own, a miracle from God to testify to the Saint’s holy and illuminating life. The Saint was buried in the cemetery of the Holy Unmercenaries, in the place across from the south entrance to the church.

In 1866, when the head of the church Hieromonk Cornelius was restoring the church, in this place hidden underneath a plaque, he found the “grace-filled skull giving off an indescribable fragrance”. He therefore venerated them with piety, and hid them how they had been originally, respecting the wishes of the Saint. Thus, the location of the Saint’s tomb remains untouched to this day.

The interior of St. Sophia's Church, Arta (taken from:

The dormition of St. Apostolos
St. Apostolos continued to live according to the final suggestions of his older brother. Monastically, ascetically, philanthropically, and ecclesiastically. Every day he cared for his fellow men who came to him, and his charity towards all was exemplary. Close to the displaced [κατατρεγμένοι?], the orphans and the poor he found consolation and hope.

Seventeen years he lived after the dormition of his holy brother, St. Theocharis, close to his other brother Konstantinos, who shared a God-loving life.

When he foresaw his death, he asked his brother to bury him in the cemetery of St. Sophia without any honors. In reality, when he surrendered his soul to the Lord in the year 1845, his remains were buried in the cemetery of St. Sophia in a place behind the holy Bema of the church. Three days after the death of the Righteous Apostolos, pious women when to the tomb—as it appears until today— to wash and decorate the tomb. They were astounded to see before them an incredible sight. They found “coming from inside the tomb, an unprecedented wonderful flower giving off an indescribable fragrance”, which revealed the holiness from God of the righteous Apostolos.

The Honor of the Saints
The memory of the righteous brothers was celebrated by the inhabitants of the city of Arta, who from the day of their deaths, honored them as Saints, commemorating them on the Wednesday of Renewal Week.

With the efforts of the ever to be remembered Fr. Stavros Papachristou, the leader of the holy church of St. Sophia, their feast was commemorated.

Their memory is today celebrated magnificently on the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers in the holy church of St. Sophia.

Icon of Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos of Arta (taken from:

ΑΠΟΛΥΤΙΚΙΟ - Ήχος α`. Της ερήμου πολίτης.

Των κλεινών αυταδέλφων την δυάδα τιμήσωμεν, τον θεοειδή Θεοχάρην και τον σύμπνουν Απόστολον` οσίαν γαρ ανύσαντες ζωήν, Αγίων ηριθμήθησαν χοροίς, και πρεσβεύουσιν απαύστως υπέρ ημών, των εκβοώντων πάντοτε` Δόξα τω στεφανώσαντι υμάς, δόξα τω αγιάσαντι, δόξα τω δοξασθέντι δι υμών, εσχάτοις ετεσιν.

Apolytikion of Sts. Theocharis and Apostolos – 1st Tone (amateur translation)

The Dyad of close brothers let us honor, the divine Theocharis and his consonant Apostolos, righteously they persevered in life, and were numbered in the choir of the Saints, and they ceaselessly intercede for us who ever cry out: Glory to Him who crowned you, glory to Him who sanctified you, glory to Him who is glorified by you in this latter days.

ΕΤΕΡΟΝ ΑΠΟΛΥΤΙΚΙΟ - Ήχος γ`. Θείας πίστεως.
Θεία θρέμματα ώφθητε Άρτης, και κειμήλια ηθών οσίων, ώ Θεόχαρες σοφέ και Απόστολε` εν αρεταίς γαρ ενθέοις εμπρέψαντες, της των Αγίων τιμής ηξιώθητε. Αλλ' αιτήσασθε, Αυτάδελφοι παμμακάριστοι, δωρήσασθαι ημίν το μέγα έλεος.


Σύμψυχοι ομότροποι αδελφοί Θεόχαρες μάκαρ και Απόστολε αληθώς, ώφθητε εν Άρτη βιώσαντες οσίως` διο της των Αγίων δόξης ετύχετε.


Of one soul and the same way, brothers Theocharis the blessed and Apostolos, truly you were seen in Arta living righteously, and were granted the glory of the Saints.
(hymns taken and preliminarily translated from:

Christ is Risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

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