The movement of Kollyvades as it appears throughout history and in the present


Throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit has been endorsing some spiritual figures who not only leave their mark in their times but also become illuminating beacons for the future generations. Therefore, by looking up to them, we “the ones who have reached the end of ages” are able to sail through the seas of tribulation, of passions and of the devil’s delusions without danger, without “wetting our feet” to reach the port of the “true life”, of impassion, of Sabbatism and thus accomplish our deliverance. Such personalities were the Three Hierarchs, St Maximus the Confessor, St Simon the New Theologian, St Gregory Palamas as well as the Fathers of the Kollyvades movement.

The presence of the Kollyvades during the 18th Century in the Holy Mountain and generally throughout Greece has caused an active return to the roots of Orthodox Patristic Tradition.

The forerunners to this movement have been sarcastically described by their adversaries in the Holy Mountain as ‘Kollyvades’, because they had opposed the untraditional practice of transferring the memorial services for the deceased from Saturday to Sunday; the latter were correct in arguing that by transferring these services would insult to the Festal Day of the Resurrection.

More specifically the reason for the movement was provided by the monks of the Skete of St Anne’s in the Holy Mountain. In 1754, these monks had been trying to rebuild the central church of the Skete, the Kyriakon. But because they had to work on Saturday, they decided not to carry out the memorial services for the deceased on that day as they were traditionally held throughout the Holy Mountain, but on Sunday after the Divine Liturgy. This decision which contravened  the Ecclesiastical tradition has tempted hierodeacon Neophytos Kausokalybytis , who was at the time teaching at the Athoniada School- which the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi had recently established in 1749- and launched a dogmatic battle against the monks of St Anne. Hierodeacon Neophytos was established as the forerunner of the Kollyvades movement.

Indeed the actual day that the memorial services were to be held constituted only a minor detail in the entire revitalizing and traditional mission of the Kollyvades’ movement. It had simply been deliberately exaggerated by their opponents, the so- called Anti-Kollyvades or Liberals, not only to bury their entire contribution but also to denigrate them as monks because they had been supposedly concerned with minor and immaterial things, like the memorial services and the kollyva. In the same way, the Maccabees because they hadn’t obeyed King Navouchodonosor on a minor detail, namely to eat pork forbidden by their Fathers’ tradition, had been terribly tortured and became Martyrs and genuine confessors of their Fathers’ faith; we venerate them as Saints of our Church. The confessionary aspect of our orthodox faith is not only expressed dogmatically but also in the context of morality and tradition.

Another cause for the appearance of the Kollyvades movement was presented by the publication of two books, the first in 1777 and the second in 1783, which dealt with the need to take Holy Communion often and had been produced by the Kollyvades’ circle. The second book, written by St Nicodemus the Hagiorite and St Macarius Notaras, bishop of Korynth, has been condemned by the Patriarchate in 1785, because it was allegedly causing strife and scandals. Later on, the Patriarchate presented the same book as beneficial and contributing to the salvation of the soul. With an official Patriarchate letter, endorsed by the Holy Synod, the writers were exonerated.
From the outset, all the teachers at the Athoniada School had expressed their support to Neophytos Kaysokalybytis; among them St Athanasius from Paros, Christopher Prodromitis from Arta, hieromonks Agapios from Cyprus, Jacob from Peloponissos, Parthenios the Hagiographer and Paisios the Calligrapher. Let us pay specific attention to Agapios the Cypriot, among the forerunners of the movement, who did justice to our island, “the island of the saints”. Later, St Nicodemus the Hagiorite, the great Saint and wise tutor of the Greek people, joined the movement together with St Macarius, bishop of Korynth, a descendant of the famous Notaras family and hieromonk Dionysius from Siatisti, the spiritual father of the Vatopedi Skete of St Demetrius and his acolyte, hieromonk Ierotheos, the spiritual father at Protato at the Holy Mountain.

The main exponents of the Kollyvades’ movement who in the 18th century have created a revival of the pursuit of virtue (‘φιλοκαλική αναγέννηση’) inside the Orthodox Church were :Athanasios from Paros, Nicodemus the Hagiorite and Macarius from Korynth. These people, because of their activities and their sacrifices, but mostly because of their pious and exemplary lives in accordance with the Patristic spirit, have been appropriately ranked among the Saints of our Church.

Two Synods convened on the issue of the memorial services. At the command of the Patriarchate, the first one convened in 1774 at the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi in the Holy Mountain. Two former Patriarchs, eight head priests and approximately two hundred monks took part in the Synod. The Synod issued a decree of anathema for the Kollyvades. The second Synod was convened in Konstantinoupolis in 1776 under Patriarch Sophroni II. The Patriarch of Jerusalem Abraamios and sixteen other head priests took part. The Synod issued a decree of anathema for the leaders of the movement, among them hieronmonk Agapios, the Cypriot, while it exiled St Athanasius Parios.  In 1785, Patriarch Gabriel exonerated St Athanasius. However, the final justification for the Kollyvades movement on the issue of the memorial services and on the frequency of the Holy Communion occurred much later in 1819 under the auspices of Patriarch Gregory the Fifth.

The Liberals, Anti-Kollyvades, have used all the illicit means available against Kollyvades. Namely, slanders, accusations and smears. They even resorted to murder. The monks from Ayia Anna called some renowned thief to murder four of the Kollyvades: Hieronmonk Paisios, the calligrapher and his elder, Theofanis, hieronmonk Agpaios, the Cypriot and hieronmonk Gabriel. The thief managed to drown two of them: Paisios and Theofanis.

The Kollyvades‘ teaching was genuinely patristic. Their main objective was to convince people through their words and deeds, to adopt an internal life in Christ. They targeted their efforts on the issues of the holy worship. They cherished the liturgy and advocated frequent participation in the Holy Communion- namely the frequent participation in the mystery of the holy Eucharist after continuous effort and preparation. They promoted the strict observance of the rituals of the Church, because this safeguards the spiritual balance in the life of the Church. They also advocated reading Patristic writings because it enables the faithful to acquire a genuine patristic mindset.

The three Kollyvades Saints- Nicodemus the Hayiorite, Athanasius Parios and Macarius Notaras- have interpreted passages from the Holy Scriptures and from the Fathers of the Church, wrote biographies and liturgies in honor of Saints and even schoolbooks on grammar, rhetoric and philosophy. Many Kollyvades have also copied books by foreign writers and translated contemporary, western philosophers. They either did not avoid contact with modern ideas, by incorporating modern views and methods into Patristic teachings, or criticized them altogether. The shrewd Evgenios Boulagaris- who may easily be associated with the Kollyvades, even though he did not actively participate in the movement since after 1762 he was in Leipzig and later in Russia – was deeply knowledgeable of the contemporary spiritual movements and critically assessed them in the light of the Patristic tradition.

What was foremost in the minds of the Kollyvades fathers was to awaken the enslaved nation to stand up for its faith and the traditions of its Fathers and to safeguard the Greek Orthodox culture and their lives in Christ. St Nicodemus wrote twenty five enormous treatises. Among them one distinguishes the “Symbouleytikon Egheiridion (Advisory Manual) which he wrote while exiled in the island of Skyropoyla. His life then was filled with difficulties and hardships and was lacking even the rudimentary necessities and of course books.
He uses plenty of patristic passages from memory in his book; this proves this great Father’ enormous ability to commit to memory as well as the presence of Grace. This treatise is a manual for anyone, who wishes to experience life in Christ, tries to control his senses and practices the mental prayer along with everything else which contributes towards the spiritual perfection of the person. St Athanasius Parios, who is regarded as the feistiest of the Kollyvades, wrote 53 treatises. He especially fought against the atheist movement of Voltaire: the delusion which has tried to enter the Greek orthodox realm under the guises of Enlightenment, natural religion and rationalism but in effect was hiding atheism.

In addition the Kollyvades were the spiritual fathers of the new martyrs. They had the duty to prepare and psychologically support towards martyrdom those who had initially forsaken their faith but having repented and been replenished with divine Eros, were eagerly seeking martyrdom and were insisting to follow this road. St Macarius Notaras had “spiritually prepared” and contributed towards igniting the ‘divine flame’ of the love of Christ in the hearts of three great new martyrs: Polydoros from Nicosia, Theodor of Byzantium and Demetrius from Pelloponisos. The blood of the new martyrs rose in the face of the Lord like a fragrant incense which brought freedom to the enslaved nation. St Nicodemus collected the biographies of several such new martyrs in his book “Neon Martyrologion”.

The regenerating movement of Kollyvades had decisively strengthened and stimulated the educational system of the enslaved nation, preserving the self-awareness of the orthodox peoples not only against the Ottoman occupiers but also against western missionaries, who had been scouring the orthodox countries, illicitly proselytizing, but mostly exploiting peoples’ ignorance, poverty and their lack of freedom. St Kosmas Aitolos said that God had allowed the occupation of the nation by the Turks and not the Catholics because the latter were going to change its faith. “The Turk”, stressed St Kosmas, “gives you what you want if you give him some monies”.
The Kollyvades have caused the hesychastic revival in the Holy Mountain and were the bearers of the Patristic tradition. They were the ones to preserve the development and way of life of the Holy Mountain for over thousand years in contrast to the Anti-Kollyvades, who had been influenced by the European religious Enlightenment, which advocated the secularization of the Church and the adaption of orthodox monasticism. The latter led an imperfect monastic life, the so-called “rough monasticism” and have had no experience of divine Grace through the Orthodox tradition.

That’s why they opposed long liturgical services, the frequent participation in the Holy Communion and Confession, the allotted reading of spiritual books, the mental exercise and the practice of Jesus’ prayer. They exhibited no internal spiritual life. The Kollyvades were attesting to the role of the Holy Mountain as the carrier of the genuine Patristic tradition. They stood by the line of the Great Fathers of the Church – particularly of the hesychast and niptic Fathers of the 14th Century – and did not permit the adaption of orthodox monasticism as in Russia under Tsar Peter the Great, who was an ardent westerner. He had promoted the westernization of the Orthodox faith which culminated with the anti-monastic policies of Empress Katherine the Great.

Even though the Anti-Kollyvades were more numerous and used illicit means as we have already said and occasionally enjoyed the support of certain Patriarchs, they did not manage to crash the Kollyvades’ movement. The Kollyvades support for the Orthodox tradition and the fresh, widespread revitalization which was set in motion and was founded on the revival of hesychasm, soon passed onto Thessaloniki, Thessalia, Epeiros, Peloponissos and the Aegean islands. Most of the Hayiorite Fathers who were exiled or who exiled themselves went to islands near the Holy Mountain in the Aegean Sea.

One such émigré was hieronmonk Nefon from Chios, together with four others-Gregorios, Agathangelos, Ananias and Joseph. These, having stayed several years in Samos, Patmos and Ikaria, finally went to Skiathos, where Nefon founded in 1794 the renowned monastery of the Annunciation, which became the most important centre of activity for Kollyvades outside the Holy Mountain. Two literary persons from Skiathos who later became the spiritual backbones of the Kollyvades movement, were Alexandros Moraitides (latter day Andronikos monk) and Alexandros Papadiamantis.

St Macarius Notaras was constantly touring the Aegean islands to support and convey the Patristic spirit to the flock, particularly to the island of Chios along with St Athanasius Parios.

Blessed elder Ierotheos began his monastic life in the Vatopedi Skete of St Demetrius, where Dionysos Siatisteas became his spiritual father. However, after his elder’s death and during the second round of persecutions against Kollyvades he is forced to leave Mount Athos. He arrives in Poros and Hydra, where he establishes the holy monastery in honor of Prophet Elijah. His brother, Ierotheos, becomes the new owner of the then abandoned monastery of the Zoodohou Pegis in Loggovarda in Paros. It is from this monastery that Filotheos Servakos, the well-known to us abbot, hailed.

St Arsenios the New, along with his spiritual father, Daniel, left the Holy Mountain and visited the islands of Paros, Sikinos and Folegandros. St Arsenios stayed in Paros where he became abbot of the monastery of St George. He lived there a very spiritual life, full of grace and comforted many people, steering them away from the ignorance which prevailed on the island.

Konstantinos Oikonomos, Kosmas Flamiatos, Christopher Panayiotopoulos (the renowned Papoulakos), Ignatios Lambropoulos and St Nicholas Planas were some of the many spiritual figures of the 19th Century who had been kneaded with the Kollyvades’ spirit and became active in Peloponissos and Athens.

Moreover, other Orthodox countries, like Romania and Russia, have directly or indirectly benefited by Kollyvades as it is manifested by the revival of hesychasm in these countries.  In the 18th Century, Romanians and Russians were initiated to the neglected Patristic spirituality by St Paisios Velichkovsky, who had lived for eighteen years in Kapsala of the Holy Mountain and in the monastery of Prophet Elijah which he founded. Then he later visited Moldova, latter day Romania, and became the founder of the ascetic “Starets”: namely of the holy Russian Elders, who by their saintly and charismatic words and deeds comforted not only the illiterate villagers but also the mighty intellectuals of their countries.