Saint Anthimos (Argyrios K. Bagianos) was born on July 1, 1869 in the vicinity of Saint Luke at Livadion, Chios. His righteous and virtuous parents, Constantine and Argyro, took care to give their child a Christian education. The young Argyrios was endowed by the Holy Spirit with the spirit of wisdom; he was foreordained by God to shine forth as a chosen vessel and to become a great guide who would lead others to Christ. His entire childhood development and upbringing was apparently due to the strong and profound influence of his Christian family environment.
On Sundays Argyrios and his family attended services at the Monastery of Nea Moni.1 When he was eight years old he met Saint Nektarios, who was a Deacon at the time. After conversing with young Argyrios, he said to Igumen Pachomios, "Elder, do you see that child? Someday he will become a Saint."
Argyrios had little formal education, and was limited to simple elementary school knowledge. So with no theoretical knowledge of worldly acclaim, but with a good disposition, spiritual discernment, and with a particularly intense desire for the spiritual life, he advanced unwaveringly in the virtuous life with the precious gift of unshakable faith.
Divine love led him to renounce the world and its noisy turmoil, and to enter the monastic state where his virtues shone forth. The starting point for him to follow the path of monasticism was his visit to the Skete of the Holy Fathers of Chios for the restoration of his own wonderworking icon of the All Holy Virgin the Helper (Παναγία Βοηθεία), which he had received from his mother. Since that time, this icon remained an integral part of his entire life. The Theotokos became a source of inexhaustible strength for him in his later difficult struggles, and she was also a fount of refreshment and respite.
His guide in the ascetical life was the venerable Elder Pachomios of Sketis, by whom he was tonsured into the small Schema, and who renamed him Anthimos.
He submitted to Elder Pachomios and through unceasing prayer and fasting, and by the harsh struggles which he undertook with God’s good will, he grew great in asceticism and in virtue. His physical and spiritual struggles left him exhausted and ill. So, with the blessing of Father Pachomios, he returned to his home in order to recuperate. Saint Anthimos, however, did not abandon his struggles. Once his health was partially restored he retired to a small isolated cell on his father’s estates in Livadia, Chios, and continued his spiritual contests. At the same time he worked as a shoemaker in order to help his poor parents, and to show mercy to those who were afflicted.
In his cell, by unceasing prayer, and by studying the lives of the great ascetics, he was strengthened and he made progress in his spiritual formation, but he also provoked the demonic rage of the Evil One. He struggled severely and effectively, conducting multifaceted and victorious contests against the Evil One with ardent prayer, and each day he ascended the blessed Ladder of virtues and holiness. In 1909, at the age of forty, he was tonsured into the Great Schema by Hieromonk Andronikos, the successor of Father Pachomios.
The virtuous ascetic Anthimos was a chosen vessel and was ready for the office of the priesthood, but the local bishop refused to ordain him because of his lack of education. In 1910, he was invited to Adramyttium in Asia Minor by his godfather, Stephen Diomataris, for this purpose. The saint’s ordination by the Bishop of Smyrna was not a typical event.
In his case, there were signs of divine approval following the ordination. Earthquake, lightning, thunder, and a cataclysmic rainfall occurred at that sacred hour. The vigil lamps swayed, and one of them fell down. After the ordination there was calm, stillness, and joy from God. These physical phenomena revealed and bore witness to the fact that God was pleased by his ordination.
As long as he remained in Adramyttium, he shone forth in a dazzling way because of his virtue and holiness, by which he healed those in the region who were possessed by demons, something his fellow priests were unable to do. His spiritual radiance stirred up the passion of jealousy in his concelebrants. Wishing to free them from this passion, the Saint left Adramyttium in 1911 and went to Mount Athos, where the Hagiorite monks freely bestowed many honors upon him.
Returning to Chios, he was assigned as the priest for the home for lepers, which became a new setting for his virtues and charitable activities. The icon of the Panagia Ypapanti (the Meeting of the Lord), the protectress of the hospital for lepers, focuses on all her acts of kindness.
The Lady Theotokos, through the prayers of Saint Anthimos, performed countless miracles of healing the infirmities of the faithful, both those whose names are known and those who remain anonymous. This institution for unfortunate lepers became a spiritual center of physical and mental health. His entire ministry at the home for lepers shows his deepest faith and his very valuable contributions.
Here the greatness of the Saint is revealed. As the priest of that church, Saint Anthimos was always found with the lepers: he ate with them, he talked to them, and he communed them with the Spotless Mysteries. After the Divine Liturgy he rested.
In that hallowed atmosphere, he envisioned the establishment of a Monastery to shelter nuns who had fled there from Asia Minor following the exchange of populations (1922-1924).2 So his dreams moved forward toward their fulfillment. In 1927, after he had a vision of the Theotokos, he received permission to build such a monastery. He also built the magnificent temple dedicated the icon of the Mother of God the Helper (Παναγία Βοηθεία) in 1930. From that time he settled in the Monastery filled with devotion to the Most Holy Theotokos, and there he advanced in his life of asceticism, filled with a multitude of virtues and holiness through the intercession and help of the Theotokos, and he shepherded his flock with great affection and love, strengthening and consoling them with his sweet and simple speech, healing the sicknesses and afflictions of those who had recourse to him.
After his life-long ministry, now at the age of 90, fully ripe and full of days, with a dignity which was reminiscent of the great ascetics of the desert, he celebrated his last Divine Liturgy on January 27, 1960. A few days later he reposed in peace.
Saint Anthimos was glorified by the Church of Constantinople on August 13, 1992.
1 The monastery was dedicated to Saints Niketas, John, and Joseph.
2 At that time many Greeks in Asia Minor were sent to Greece, and many Turks in Greece went to Turkey.