Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Holy Ascetics of Leipso, and their Holy New Righteous Martyrs

Icon of Christ the Bestower of Crowns (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Note: This is translated from a Greek account on the website of the Holy Pantocrator Monastery in Greece. I love the way this story is told, and see many comparisons between the ascetics who first denied themselves to go live in such a harsh land, and the ascetics who later denied themselves in martyrdom. The original founders did not choose a hospitable location to live in, but the most desolate and remote place they could find to live in anonymity, humility, and askesis; similarly the five new monastic martyrs mentioned were only remembered on earth in a book, while they are never forgotten by Christ who reigns forever and bestows crowns upon his faithful servants.

Can you imagine the love and patience required to lug soil from far away to eventually grow wheat and grapes which perhaps, years later, could be used in the Divine Liturgy? It reminds me of a quote by Elder Amphilochios of Patmos: "Whoever plants a tree plants hope, peace, and love, and has the blessings of God."

May we emulate the struggle and sacrifice of these righteous ascetics and martyrs, we who refuse to struggle at all against our passions. May we have their blessing!

The Five Righteous Martyrs from the Island of Leipso of the Dodekanesa
The island with the historic name “Leipso”, and more modernly “Leipsoi” is in the north part of the Dodekanesa in the east Aegean and belongs ecclesiastically to the island Patmos, which along with it was given in 1088 AD to the Righteous St. Christodoulos Latreno by the Byzantine emperor Alexis Komenos.

In the archives of the holy Monastery of the Saint on Patmos we learned that around 1550 AD the first ascetics reached Leipso. The coming of these monks is noteworthy, as a foreshadowing of their holiness, which is preserved in the tradition among the faithful, that those first monks who departed from Patmos, spread out their robes on the ocean, walked on top and with the blessing of the Lord they brought them to Leipso, to the cove today named Dormition (of the Theotokos).

This cove gives way to an utterly dry slope, “H Skaphe”. This was chosen by those first ascetics as the place to build their hesychasterion, because with this choice they favored the austere landscape of that place, which matched their austere ascetical manner.

However, they encountered thousands of difficulties on that inhospitable slope of Skaphe, preventing them from taking root in its soil.

These hermits equal-to-the-angels countered these difficulties with their faith founded in heaven and and were enflamed first of all by the church of God, placing as their Lady the holy icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos, from which they named their home and the whole surrounding area.

The church, and not their cells, became their primary concern. They fought with the wild rocks and divided them to create the foundation of the church. They struggled with water shortage, which they countered with their sweat and their tears of repentance.

And the gift-granting God visited their struggle and their agony and granted them a fountain in the cove, which they named “Wild Water”, which continues to spring today from the bowels of the earth.

And as they built the dwelling of the holy icon of the Theotokos, they found individual homes of small caves surrounding the church all ready, where they could rest their bodies for awhile, which were exhausted from their all day work and all night prayer.

And they considered the narrowness of their small caves their ascetical kingdom before the vast ocean. In these those righteous ascetics would be on their knees, and bend to the earth in prayer in case the oldest had broken knees. They had hands to raise towards heavenly dwelling place of their archetype Jesus, in case the youngest was callous and the oldest was shaky.

Their second task was to find Bread and Wine for Holy Communion. For this they carried soil on their shoulders from a fertile land far away and created a small area to grow wheat and grape vines and thus to ensure the material prerequisites for Holy Communion.

And as the years passed, the allure of the hesychasterion of the Dormition attracted other ascetics, and indeed, as tradition holds, some “kollyvades” fathers from the Holy Mountain. Thus they founded a second hesychasterion on the slope with the name “Annunciation of the Theotokos”, which was located only 800 meters from the first. The ascetics here grew olives, to ensure with their fruit the undying flame of the vigil lamps before the icons, and with their own undying flame of their faith and struggle, along with their sweat and tears of repentance, watered the small olive trees and they grew large, as witnessed by the ruins today.

[Note: the Righteous Nephon the New Cenobiarch was one of the Kollyvades Fathers that went to Leipso for a period of time. For more, see:]

Centuries passed since those godly ascetics abandoned their wordly pursits and sought the two hesychasteria on the desert on the Skaphe mountain, but how much they breathed the aroma of the presence of God and and joined? [έσμιγαν] their psalmodies with those winged chanters, the birds, towards the heavenly Father, as the holiness of the whole area and beyond imparted to the atmosphere.

There numerous ascetics lived, whose earthly ends was recorded in the [record book] of the holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos. Among them is treasured the martyrical end of five monks, who were led away by the Turkish rulers of our area. They unfortunately violated the holiness of the place. They watered it with the sanctified blood of five righteous martyred ascetics of the Dormition [Monastery]...

[The following are translations from the actual accounts by the Monastery:]

“In 1635 of the month of April was captured by Peker-Pasha the Monk Jonah the Garmpen, from the island of Syros and he was beaten, until he died.

“The same year Monk Neophytos the Phazon was seized by young men who slaughtered him with an axe and we began the memorial service and his funeral on December 8th.”

“The same year (1696) the most-holy Monk Parthenios from Phylipoplin falls asleep, departing at the wild water, his death by having his throat slit with a harpoon, may God grant him rest.”

“1558 April 6th the Monk Neophytos the Aimorginos was killed by the Turks in Leipso.

“1561 February 28th the servant of God Monk Jonah the Lerios was killed by the Turks.”

This was the martyrical end of the blessed ascetics...Because of this we perceive and honor you as worthy righteous martyrs.

The Caretaker of the Holy Pilgrimage
Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne [of Constantinople]
Nikephoros Koumoundous

(amateur translation and summary of Greek text from:

Icon of the Five New Righteous Martyrs of Leipso: Parthenios, two named Neophytos and two named Jonah (taken from:

Aπολυτίκιον Ήχος πλ. α'. Τον συνάναρχον Λόγον.
Την εν χρόνοις ποικίλοις πεντάδα ένθεον οσιοάθλων πατέρων εν τη Λειψώ, ιεροίς αγωνίσμασιν αθλήσασαν τιμήσωμεν, συν Νεοφύτω, Ιωνά, άλλω θείω Ιωνά, Παρθένιον και φωσφόρον ευχής, Νεόφυτον, φάρον, αυτών λιτάς απεκδεχόμενοι.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone (amateur translation)
O pentad of godly righteous athlete fathers of Leipso from various times, whose holy feats they struggled we honor, with Neophytos, Jonah, another divine Jonah, Parthenios the light-bearing blessing, Neophytos the light, whose intercessions we ask.

Κοντάκιον Ήχος πλ. δ'. Τη Υπερμάχω.
Λειψώ την νήσον, θεοφόροι, ηγιάσατε ιδρώτων όμβροις και αιμάτων ταις εκχύσεσι ταις υμών, οσιομάρτυρες τροπαιούχοι, Ιωνά συν Νεοφύτων ζεύγοι έμφρονι και συν άλλω Ιωνά, κλεινέ Παρθένιε, ανακράζοντες. Χαίροις, γέρας πεντάριθμον.

Χαίροις, των αγίων Λειψώ πεντάς, οσιομαρτύρων, ω Νεόφυτε, Ιωνά, συν τω Νεοφύτω και Ιωνά τω άλλω, Παρθένιε παμμάκαρ, πίστεως μάργαρα.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

No comments: