23 February 2009

'An Ever-Resplendent Lamp'—St Charalampus of Magnesia

Although I am sadly lacking in materials on him in my own library, I did not want the feast of Hieromartyr Charalampus, bishop of Magnesia in Thessaly (†202) to go by unnoticed. My friend Justin did a post on his life a couple of weeks ago or so, and one can find information on him at the usual sources. But I since I don’t have much of any material on him myself and can’t think of much to say about his life, I thought I would break a bit from my standard posts and just mention two aspects of my personal connection to this Saint.

The first time my wife and I went to Thessaloniki, we had been given the names of an American couple there by some monks we know, but we never got around to calling or e-mailing them. We just plunged ahead, not knowing what we would do about a place to live, how long we would stay, etc. But we started a Greek class at the University a day or two after our arrival, and there we met a young ryassophore monk from France, named Fr Silouan. Curious about the logistics of his life in the city, we asked where he went to church, and he told us about a parish in Thessaloniki that was a dependency of Simonos Petras Monastery on the Holy Mountain, called ‘St Charalampus’.

So that weekend, we visited St Charalampus for Vespers. It was a neat little church, I would guess 18th-c., tucked away off of a small side street from the main drag of Thessaloniki with a little courtyard and some parish community buildings somewhat reminiscent of a monastery. There were many young people there, and some superb chanting. During the service, I noticed this rather un-Greek-looking fellow with long hair pulled back and a bushy beard. Afterward, he came up to me and asked me in Greek if I was Russian. I replied, also in Greek, that I was an American, and he replied, ‘Kai ego!’ Realising we were both Americans and could speak English, I asked him, ‘Are you Luke?’—this being the name that the monks in the States had given me. Well, sure enough, it was the man himself. He asked what we were doing in Thessaloniki, and I told him we were taking Greek and looking for a place to stay. He told us that they knew of a place—an apartment that a friend was looking to sublet—and that we could probably look at it that evening. We ended up staying in that apartment for two and a half months, and visiting that little church off and on over the last eight years. We saw the current abbot of Simonos Petras serve there shortly after his enthronement. I’ve met many Americans and other non-Greek Orthodox Christians there. The priest used to always ask how I was doing when he would see me at the University. I’ll never forget the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete being chanted there. I always love going back.

My second story is briefer. When we visited the monasteries at Meteora once, I can’t remember whether it was the time we went with my parents, with my mother-in-law, or with my sister, we happened to be at St Stephen’s when there was a large group of (I think mostly Greek) pilgrims coming in, and the sisters brought the skull of St Charalampus out into the nave of the church. Even though that church was packed with sweaty people, the moment they opened the lid on the precious reliquary, an overpowering heavenly fragrance filled the room. My wife and I looked at each other and she asked, ‘Do you smell that?’ I’m quite sure that, in the words of Archimandrite Vasileios of Iveron, it was ‘the very same fragrance which had filled the universe on the day of Resurrection’ (Beauty and Hesychia in Athonite Life, trans. Constantine Kokenes [Québec: Alexander, 1999], p. 10).

Ἀπολυτίκιο. Ἦχος δ'.
Ὡς στῦλος ἀκλόνητος, τῆς Ἐκκλησίας Χριστοῦ, καὶ λύχνος ἀείφωτος, τῆς οἰκουμένης σοφέ, ἐδείχθης Χαράλαμπε, ἔλαμψας ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, διὰ τοῦ μαρτυρίου, ἔλυσας καὶ εἰδώλων τὴν σκοτόμαιναν μάκαρ, διὸ ἐν παρρησίᾳ Χριστῷ, πρέσβευε σωθήναι ἠμᾶς.

Dismissal Hymn. Fourth Tone.
An unshaken pillar of the Church of Christ God art thou, an ever-resplendent lamp, O Haralampus most wise, which shineth throughout the earth; in martyric contest thou hast shined on the whole world, and thou hast dispelled the moonless night of the idols. Now boldly intercede thou with Christ that we may all be saved.

Κοντάκιον Ἦχος δ’.
Θησαυρὸν πολύτιμον ἡ Ἐκκλησία, τὴν σὴν κάραν κέκτηται, Ἱερομάρτυς Ἀθλητά, τροπαιοφόρε Χαράλαμπε, διὸ καὶ χαίρει τὸν Κτίστην δοξάζουσα.

Kontakion. Fourth Tone.
Thou didst rise up in the East, a luminary that enlightened faithful men with thy bright shafts of miracles, O Haralampus; hence we revere thy godly contest, O Martyr of sacred fame.


Justin said...

Thanks for relating your thoughts on Charalampus. Few suffered for Christ as he did.

I like the fact that we both post on him at different times according to our archdioceses' respective calendars. The most desirable scenario would be to celebrate together, but until that happens, our repetition can more firmly plant the memory of these athletes for Christ in people's memory.

At some point we should collaborate and recount the story of the Nazi officer that witnessed the intervention of St. Charalampous. Every year he returned to Greece to attend the feast day. I've only seen it on one website. Perhaps we could preserve it here as well.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

Could somebody tell me how exactly to pronounce the name Charalampus?

aaronandbrighid said...

Andrew> Thanks for the comment and for your query. The pronunciation of these things, of course, depends on the language one is speaking and the accent with which one normally speaks or which one is attempting to reproduce. As I first became acquainted with this Saint in Greece, I usually pronounce it the Greek way: a hard 'ch' as in German 'Bach' or Scottish 'loch', a's pronounced as in 'ah', a lightly trilled 'r', stress on the 3rd 'a', the 'p' voiced so as to be pronounced 'b', and the 'o' as a very clipped and pure long 'o' as in 'oh' (without the 'oo' sound often added to the long 'o' in English dialects). I've never heard a properly Anglicised pronunciation of this name, so I don't know how to advise you, but I would certainly insist that the initial consonant be either a 'k' or an 'h' sound. As for the vowels, I'm afraid I don't know of an authority to point you to. Maybe try something like 'Care-a-lamp-us', with the stress on 'lamp'.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your detailed response, Aaron. I am somewhat of a name enthusiast, but figuring out how to pronounce "Charalampus" was far beyond my capability.

aaronandbrighid said...

You're quite welcome. I had a good time explaining my thoughts on the matter!