12 January 2009

Karakallou's Only Glorified Saint

I have extremely fond memories of Karakallou Monastery on the Holy Mountain. There are two American monks there, and they are very kind, warm people. I'll always remember an afternoon I spent there breaking beans or something with them in the Kitchen and chatting. Unfortunately, however, poor Karakallou has only one glorified Saint, Monk-martyr Gideon, one of the New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke, which is, I believe, the shortest list of glorified Saints of any Athonite monastery (although, if memory serves me, since someone absconded with my copy of the second volume of Contemporary Ascetics of Mt Athos, there was a holy Elder Codratus at Karakallou in the late 19th/early 20th c.). For this reason, the first time I visited Karakallou, I was given two 'evlogies', or gifts, a very nice postcard of the monastery, and a print of the monastery's icon of St Gideon with a short life of the Martyr on the back in Greek.

Now, St Gideon's life is told briefly in the Prologue, which I reproduce below, but I was unable to find an icon of him online. Thus I myself have undertaken to have my own icon of the Holy Martyr scanned so that I could post it here, for your edification.

Gideon was a Greek by birth, of very poor parents. In his youth he was forced to embrace Islam. Repentant, he fled to the Holy Mountain, where he received the monastic tonsure in the Monastery of Karakallou. Desiring martyrdom for Christ, he received the blessing of his spiritual father and returned to the same place where he had become a Moslem. There, before the Turks, he openly confessed the Christian Faith and denounced Mohammed as a false prophet. The Turks shaved his head, placed him upside-down on a donkey, and led him through the town, but he rejoiced at this ridicule for the sake of Christ. They then chopped off all his fingers and toes with an axe, as they had once done to St. James the Persian (November 27). Finally they threw him into a place filled with excrement, where he gave up his holy soul to God in the year 1818, in Trnovo in Thrace. His miracle-working relics are preserved in the Church of the Holy Apostles in the village of Trnovo, and a part of his relics can be found in the Karakallou Monastery.

The Life of the Holy Martyr Gideon can be found, told in greater detail, in Nomikos Michael Vaporis's wonderful Witnesses for Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period, 1437-1860 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary, 2000).


orrologion said...

After a longish search, my wife and I finally narrowed our male, baby name search to two: Jasper and Gideon. (I should note the rule in our house had been firmly stated as: 'she who carries and pushes out a baby shall name that baby, as long as the name is an Orthodox saint or feast'.) When my wife named both, I wasn't sure either was referred to an Orthodox saint or feast. I was to find that Jasper is an anglicized form or the traditional name (5th C) of one of the Magi whose feast is celebrated (and overshadowed) by the Nativity of Christ. I knew Gideon was an Old Testament Judge, but I wasn't sure whether he was on the Orthodox calendar or not. Before finding that he was, I found the life of St. Gideon of Karakallou. My wife said there was really no option for a little boy over whether to be named for a Magi in the Christmas story or to be named after a saint who was killed and thrown on a pile of poop.

Jasper is growing up nicely and enjoyed being held by his father as he sang the entire Liturgy at the OCA Cathedral of his repentance the other day. Our little Magi does not normally let me sing the entire Liturgy at the Greek church as we sing the 'western' music of the GOA, poorly. The GOA parish is also less shiny than 2nd Street.

Is Karakallou an historically Greek monastery? Why the lack of glorified saints do you think? Humility?

aaronandbrighid said...

Well, a belated (even for the Old Calendar) 'Many years!' to young Jasper the Magus! I do hope to hear of someone named for St Gideon one day though, and I know the fathers at Karakallou would be thrilled about to hear of it.

To my knowledge, Karakallou IS an hisotrically Greek monastery. As to the lack of glorified Saints, it's hard to say. Of course, it's generally true of the Holy Mountain that while many, many Athonites have likely achieved deification over the last thousand years, a very small percentage of those have been glorified by the Church. It seems, too, like many of these have often been active off of the Mountain in one capacity or another (I'm thinking of St Gregory Palamas or St Cosmas Aitolos) or at least had a disciple who was active off of the Mountain (St Maximos Kapsokalyvites or St Silouan the Athonite). Perhaps while Athonites venerate their own Saints, they don't typically work at making them known or getting them glorified. St Gideon might not have been glorified had he not been martyred in Trnovo and venerated by the Church there.

orrologion said...

Well, if we are blessed with another boy perhaps I will be able to bring a little joy to the Fathers at Karakallou. (I'll probably have to give a little Gideon two patron saints - the Judge and the New Martyr - to mollify his non-Orthodox mother).

Thanks for putting the reasons into words. That makes a lot of sense - and is more in keeping with what one would want of monastics fleeing from the world. I wonder if that has also kept the Monastery from experiencing the tourism invasion that some/many of the other monasteries on Athos have been experiencing.

What is the modern history of Karakallou? Was it one of the monasteries that was 're-founded' in modern times by Brotherhoods from outside of the Holy Mountain, e.g., Simonos Petra? Was it one of the idiorhythmic monasteries only recently returned to coenobism? What is the monastery's 'reputation' on the Holy Mountain and beyond?

aaronandbrighid said...

According to Graham Speake, Karakallou reverted to coenobitism in 1813. It was refounded by fathers from Philotheou, although if I remember correctly, I was told that the abbot had been at Philotheou before Elder Ephraim. I also seem to recall hearing of warm feelings on their part toward the St Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio. I can't say for sure about its reputation, and I may be wrong about the other stuff so any readers should feel free to correct me!

Anonymous said...

This is my youngest son's patron saint. Thank you for providing such wonderful information and scanning the icon (an icon of St Gideon is almost impossible to locate). Many Years!

David Robles said...

Thank you Deacon Aaron for this post. I really enjoyed reading it. I have been to Karakallou 4 times but I didn't know this wonderful story.