By Holy Mother Eugenia Kleidara
The first period, 750 years ago (in 1235), it was a Monastery for Women with the Holy Olympia as Abbess. The second period, about 500 years ago (in 1463), it was a Monastery for Men with St. Raphael as Abbot. And today is the third period we are living in this holy place of Karyes. Many pilgrims entreated me to write about my coming to this holy place and also the life we live at Karyes, and the historic background of the Holy Monastery. I will not refuse to satisfy all, although I would prefer to describe only what happened to others and avoid what happened to myself. But the love for my fellow man, is surpassing everything else. And how can one be silent, when he has put his hand onto the print of the nails, and has touched the true existence of the newly-appeared Saint Martyrs? How could he not wish to also strengthen the faith of others? Would he not have to give a defense if he remained silent, when even the stones will confess and cry out? And to what purpose, I am thinking to myself, were all these revelations, all these supernatural events and facts? To keep them for myself?
A Saint used to say, if it is to be that my brothers and sisters are going to be lost, I won't wish to be saved either. I am praying with all the fervor of my soul, for the Grace of God to touch my heart and the power of His love to act on others. Oh then, love becomes boundless, wide. One loves the universe, burning with the hope for the salvation and deliverance of others who are his brothers and sisters. Love annihilates obstructions. I am thinking of the superb hymnographer of love the Apostle Paul, who was willing to lose His soul as long as others could be saved, even those who persecuted Him. His inconceivable grandeur, how it moves me: His luminous figure, His gleaming example is lighting our road.
I know it is daring for one to write about the miracles and revelations of Karyes. I know that one should think carefully before mentioning even one of his visions. But since those who saw the Saints are innumerable and since Saint Raphael shone like a sun in our lives and with His splendor enables human beings to derive deep knowledge and to feel in this blood-stained place the atmosphere saturated with divine grace, when they arrive from all corners of our tragic earth, distressed and sad, and agony is sketched on their faces and they are deeply moved, and they are departing with an ultra-mundane joy and holy emotion when the love of the newly-appeared Martyrs is magnetizing the faithful, and when the same thoughts and feelings are shared by all, and although they come here with a deadly melancholia and the uncreated spiritual Light makes them feel a strong attraction and an ineffable fragrance, and with enthusiasm they exclaim "here is a second Mt. Tabor", "it is the baptismal font of Siloam", "we were baptized again", and you see an unfeigned joy shining on their faces which dispels all melancholia, how then can one be locked up in himself and not confess at least a few of the divine gifts, which God's condescension allows?
When one lives under such circumstances and he sees the Light of the divine world shining and the supernatural events are inundating his heart with emotion which shocks him, and he remains ecstatic before the depth of God's great love, how can he not cry out "come and see"? I feel deep contrition and humility before such mysteries and I feel my being annihilated. How much splendor comes out from the gigantic spiritual stature of Saint Raphael and His Holy Companions! Here one finds himself in the area of divine beauty, as if he were living in the harmony of the infinite and he is burning with divine yearning. I will refer to at least only a few of the innumerable events which I lived through at this blessed, holy and bloodstained place, for the glory of the Saints. Oh, how many appearances, how many visions, how much protection I found which the pen is weak to describe. But no matter how much one can say, no matter how much one can write, he will not be able to touch the reality. Great is the multitude of the miracles, how can one remain silent, when everything around him confesses the miraculous power of the Saints and prove their true existence?
At this moment my mind turns back when for the first time I came all alone to this place. It was by Divine Providence that I found myself here. Saint Raphael was inviting me by saying to me that I must surrender my plans to build the Church of Saint Magdalene, which I so much wished, and I had gone to Vrilesia of Athens in order to build it, with the permission of his Eminence Panteleimon Fostine. From Chios, where I was Abbess at the Holy New Monastery and at the Monastery of Holy Protection, I went for a while to Athens for this purpose. Deep emotion prevails throughout my whole inner being and I feel great contrition when I think of the appearances of Saint Raphael. "You will not build the Church, I am foreordaining you Abbess for my Monastery". Oh my God, these words by the Saint brought an earthquake to my psychic world. The invincible Divine power had overturned all things it engendered, other longings, other ideas, other enthusiasms. Then the letters were arriving from different persons and they were confirming the invitation of the Saint, emphasizing that this is His will for me to come as Abbess to the place of Karyes, and that a Monastery would be built. And after a most overwhelming vision which I had at dawn, on that same day I found myself at this place. Saint Raphael appeared fully alive and He said to me: "Come, I am calling you". I realized from the stern appearance which he had that I must hasten my coming and I abandoned everything and I started off on that same day. Likewise, Kostas Kanellos, a faithful person from Therini travelled to Athens for this purpose, and without knowing me he came to tell me that "we are all seeing the Saint and he is telling us that you must come as Abbess to Karyes, and the Saint himself ordered me to come and to tell you that you must hasten your coming".
He himself relates that as soon as he got out of the ship and he did not know neither the streets nor which direction to take, someone approached him and asked him: "Where are you going?" He replied: "To Vrilesia, but I do not know how to get there". "Come, I will take you", and he dropped him off outside the house. The confirmation of the Saint's will was with a letter which I received from His Eminence the Metropolitan of Mytiline, Mr. lakovos, as well as from the then Chancellor "who was President" Nikodemos Anagnostou, the now Metropolitan of Ierissos, who also showed great interest for the future Monastery and they were writing that "according to Saint Raphael's order, I must come as Abbess because it was predestined to become a Monastery for Women." And after that overwhelming vision in which I saw the Saint calling me, I started off on the same day. As soon as I reached Mytiline on my way to the Metropolis, I was stopped by Mrs. Stella Karali, a resident of Mytiline who was unknown to me till then, and she told me the following: "Would you perchance be Abbess Eugenia, who is about to come to the Monastery of Karyes?" "Yes, I am destined to go there." "All night my husband was saying in his sleep: 'Is it Eugenia, my Saint? Eugenia?' I woke him up forcefully and I asked him: 'Which Eugenia are you talking about? You did not let me sleep?' 'Do you, Stella, know of any lady by the name of Eugenia, in the Angelic Order? Saint Raphael will bring her as Abbess to the Monastery of Karyes.' 'I do not know her either.'" I continued my way to the Metropolis to obtain the blessing of His Eminence and he gave me my official appointment.
I told our Metropolitan that I had with me a hundred gold pounds which my father had given me in the past and that I would use them for the initial needs of the Monastery. Those unrepeated moments which will accompany me to my last breath, were the first three days that I stayed nailed down near the Holy Relics, deeply moved and ecstatic for the so great condescension of the Saints towards me. The first day I saw all three Saints, Saint Raphael who blessed me from a distance of a meter, Saint Nicholas who was standing near Him, and above the earthen pot was Saint Irene. When you see figures of Saints who left from this life so many centuries ago, and you discern even the minute details, your thought stops before the divine greatness which created all things with such wisdom. Saint Raphael has a tall stature; he is middle-aged, with grey hair, medium beard, a little pointed. His eyes are grey-blue, sparkling and very expressive. He has so much grandeur, his appearance is imposing and in general His Divine countenance overflows with heavenly grace and an inexpressible ultra-mundane beauty. In His appearances he presents himself sometimes in his Celebrant's dress, with gold vestments, sometimes in black clerical frocks and his priestly high hat or without a head cover. Saint Nicholas is a little shorter, younger, with soft wrinkles, slender, chestnut blonde, with a small beard, a very gentle countenance. He appears in a Deacon's vestment or in a Monk's frock. Saint Irene is a girl of twelve years of age. She appears in a white or yellow dress, long to her feet, with a belt around her waist, and with blonde hair divided into two pigtails.
How many appearances, how many miracles have followed! I remain astounded before their lively appearance. I am reflecting how many times they helped me in this toilsome task and at every adversity! I am considering how many things were achieved, how much healing, how many appearances in the duration of thirty-six years! What a holy place it is here, and how great the entities of these Saints are! Our dark era needed so much the resplendent Light of Saint Raphael to shine from one end to the other! How much consolation is offered to the fatigued people of our times! Oh, how much my heart is burning with an all warm and ceaseless desire that all distressed people find the healing of their soul and body, the psychic calm from the storm of the world! When I consider that this place was as the mountain opposite when I came, I marvel at the miraculous power of Saint Raphael, who I, presiding here, and thus all things can be done.
When I first came, there was not even one cell for me to stay in. And I was offered hospitality for the nights at Thermi, and during the day I had set up a tent until the time the cells were built. The ardent divine desire of my mother-in-flesh, brought her in a little while close to me, and with her my attendant, Parthenia, who followed me from Chios, when she was still living a worldly life. Mrs. Maria Kounelli, resident of Thermi, had a vision. Saint Raphael, Saint Nicholas and Saint Irene visited her and they told her: "Go up to Karyes and tell Abbess Eugenia that she must stay the nights at your home together with her mother and Parthenia, until the cells are built." And thus, during the initial period, we were staying the nights there.
I will not forget the first days that I came, without there being a wall built around the Monastery, nor any iron gates, and without being asleep, I would see that Saint Raphael was accompanying me from the lower Church towards the front gate. He closed from the inside the big iron gate, which in reality did not exist, he locked it and he handed me the key. But it was big and I made the thought why should it be so big, since they now put on the biggest door safety locks and the keys are small. When the time came for the wall to be built around the Monastery and the big iron gate to be made, the blacksmith handed to me exactly the same key which Saint Raphael had given me. I was falling from one astonishment to another, and every so often the Saints were reaffirming to me their lively existence.
In a year's time we entered into the first cell. Since then, 36 years have passed and I have today 45 Nuns; and is it not miraculous that which is being accomplished with the brotherhood? We have gathered here from different places (Germany, Australia, Athens, Thessaloniki, Drama, Serres, Larisa, Beroia, Cyprus, Cyclades, Crete, Chios, from different parts of Lesvos, etc.) each one with a different upbringing, different ages, different customs, and we became one family, one sisterhood, and we are passing our days in harmony, and we have become one heart; we are united with an indissoluble bond of divine love. What else is contributing to all these other than the protection of the Blessed Grace of Saint Raphael and His Companions? The Monastery is continuously being built to its entirety. The main Church has been built where the Tomb of Saint Raphael is situated in his honor. As an Abbot, he was buried close to the Holy Altar of the old Church. It is exactly, above the Church where the other tombs of Saint Nicholas, Saint Irene, her father, the Community Chief Vasilios, and the teacher Theodore are situated. The Monastery has absolutely no wealth, except for the contributions of the faithful Christians, and the surrounding land which my father-in-flesh bought and helped me to develop.
Is it a small miracle that my father, Philip, in order to persuade me not to follow the Monastic life was making promises of material riches - as long as I did not deny the secular way of life - and sometimes he was saying that I would be disinherited from the estate. And when I would answer him that I preferred the Nun's habit and the humility of seeking alms, he would weep. But finally he did not disinherit me, and apart from the five purchases of the surrounding properties at his own expense, he also helped me financially to build a Church adjacent to the cells for the Divine Services, during the wild winter nights. Likewise, at the top of the mountain a small Church dedicated to the Prophet Elias, a water reservoir and three big cells, and all these were built after a vision. Why the Saint showed me this location, I do not know, and the purpose for which they are destined only the Saint knows. I had also seen a white Cross at the spot which I had to purchase the property, and ever since then, this is our very special piece of land which we call White Cross. For the present time, it is our soul's rest, the place where we take refuge for our meditation and prayer after the inundation of people, who arrive by the thousands to Saint Raphael's port, from the storm of the world. And for the water problem which we were facing at the Monastery, my father helped me and I had built a large 350 cubic reservoir so that the green around the Holy Monastery may be maintained. My father would be deeply moved when I used to tell him of the revelations which I had from Saint Raphael. He was in tears and his joy was unimaginable as he would observe the progress of the Monastery's work. My devotion for the Saints made him devote himself also, and with enthusiasm he would offer whatever I asked from him. He gave me money and I had built a Catacomb, after a miracle by the Panagia. She told me how I should dig, showing me the old Church.
Indeed with the excavations, there were found various ecclesiastical objects and the key of the Church. The Catacomb is honored by the name of Panagia of the Holy Protection. One feels deeply moved when entering there and he finds himself beyond time and beyond the world; he feels to "be present in the presence of God". In there we accustom ourselves to the practice and application of the heart's prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me". Some time later I had built a small Church for Saint Magdalene in the garden in order to fulfill the wish I had before coming here. Everything all around here talks to you of God. It is a paradise, an exceptionally separate corner. The garden with the flowers, the birds, the deer, the peacocks, that remind you of Paradise. This enchanting oasis brings to a person a psychic lifting up, and he feels as though he is ascending high-up to other spheres and his longing in search for the divine becomes ceaseless. In the garden the beautiful roses, the violets, the jasmines, the lilacs, the carnations, all are in fragrance and they are harmonized with the divine beauties. How quickly all was done! As if a Divine hand placed them. Who gave me this strength? Who else other than the mighty Saint?
In the writing of one hundred (100) books for which many times dawn finds me with a pen in my hand, where did I get the fortitude from? Is it not by the blessing of Saint Raphael that thirteen million (13.000.000) copies have been scattered in all nations, a fact which writers and journalists regard as a phenomenon?
At your departure Lord, the Disciples turned to work again on ships and nets and catching nowhere. But you, our Savior, appeared as the Master of all and to the right you order them to cast the nets, and the word immediately became act, and a great multitude of fishes was caught and a foreign supper ready upon the earth, of which your Disciples participated then, and now enable us spiritually to delight in it, Philanthropist Lord. So then, You Lord, when Your blessing is absent, we are in drought. The Apostles had ships and nets and 'catching nowhere'. But when you appeared with one word of Your's 'a great multitude of fishes was caught'." Could I ever imagine that my books would assist so much for the accomplishment of building the Monastery, and for the hagiography of the Holy Church? Oh my God, help us so that we always feel amongst us the living presence of our Saints; how much comfort you have given us in the harshness of today's life lacking in grace, to live under the protection of the all-alive Saints Raphael, Nicholas and Irene! Even for water, which we did not have, the living Saint Raphael indicated the place to me. The atmosphere around is full of freshness and the mortal human being feels this freshness within him at this Holy and bloodstained place. With His wonderful Holy life, He did not only achieve, His own sanctification, but He is helping all of humanity. With His voice of love, he brings the message of liberation and of everlasting dew to the souls which are burning today in the scorched side of life. His mercy scatters everywhere the divine nectar and it leads thousands of souls to the starting point, which makes them take the pathway and ascend up to Karyes and find their deliverance. Saint Raphael's offering to the fatigued humanity is unimaginably great. He liberates humans from the dreadful agony, he takes away dangerous ways of living, gives strength, he supports paralyzed knees, he lights up an inextinguishable divine flame, and faith is blooming in the hearts, it grows enormously and inspires divine visions. The luminous figure of the miraculous Saint Raphael has shone in the whole world. He is leading a multitude of people to an ascending course, he brings the awakening trumpet call and lights up divine zeal. He protects from the reefs and shoals, from shipwrecks, and with His divine intervention, he brings spiritual regeneration to all nations.
The extraordinary signs at the place of Karyes, these awesome miracles are granting strength to the faithful, inspire enthusiasm and dispel the darkness. They fill hearts with hope, with divine happiness, and with fortitude and patience they continue their difficult road here on earth. The God-sent Saint is magnetizing every person who approaches Him with faith, and the faithful find inconceivable beauty in His unattainable grandeur. The miraculous and great hero of love, with his powerful radiance, has conquered the hearts of all; his living presence is so close to human pain. It has made the holy place of Karyes, a spiritual lighthouse, a spring of divine grace, and it has become a magnetic anchorage, where the tired wayfarers of life obtain strength, courage, and their faith is made firm. They find healing, their rebirth and their deliverance. His divine splendor opens new horizons, opens eternal doors, generates convictions, and with the brilliance and supremacy of his ineffable mercy he guides mortals to eternity, and he spreads everywhere smiles from his radiant countenance.
It was in God's plans for the coming of the God-bearing Saint Raphael in our times in which the journey of human beings has become so difficult. His holy figure appeared in order to direct those who have strayed in the darkness to bright roads, to give his hand to those whose knees have bent, to save the shipwrecked who are drowning in the seas, to revive hopes, to reanimate extinguished dreams, to cure endurable illnesses, to show to each one that they possess an eternal soul. But there is no need for one to describe His miraculous power, because the voices of those who have been benefited by his mighty and affectionate hand are infinite. Countless are those who confess that he converted their sorrow to joy. He has healed innumerable individuals, that which science was unable to assist; to so many, time and again, his presence engendered holy thoughts and divine reflections. To our generation the coming of the Saint reveals the fathomless depth of Divine love. The walk of life becomes easier when one does not deny his protection; the pain and the suffering retreats, and the mortal being is directing his steps to his true destiny. How many thrills the hearts feel at the hearing of his name! The wayfarers of life stand with amazement and admiration before his eminence, his miracles, his supreme grandeur. The radiance of the all-alive Saint Raphael bathes and illuminates the faithful, it fills them with awe and dazzle, and with his heavenly message renews strengths and shows the revelation of the Divine will. Who can doubt, after all these pieces of evidence, the immortality of the soul, and who can have any hesitations? The voices are many, there are endless swarms of those, who have experienced the mercy of the living Saint of Love, and they are not in one place, they are everywhere.
In the dizziness of our civilization, and the various philosophical currents, an intense spiritual thirst is appearing in contemporary man. The crisis of our times has brought a lot of confusion, and in the heart of the human being there exists so much anxiety. But the infinite love of God has sent us the illuminated Saint, to lead the course of mortals to a good end. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). The Heavens are always inviting us to go nearer; God sends at different times His Saints to open up the road. Suffice for us to accept the invitation of His love. No other power can influence, can attract man so much as LOVE. The Crucified Love of Saint Raphael has defeated even death.
He loved the Redeemer of the world and he was bathed in His Light, with which today he is enlightening the universe with his presence, and he became the consolation of all, he became the supporter of humanity under trial. Five hundred years have passed since he suffered martyrdom. But no matter how many centuries may pass, he will be amongst people of all nations, the wise interpreter of the Divine will, which, as expressed in our Lord Jesus Christ, is the living image of God, and he will be alleviating pain and suffering, and with His invincible strength he will be guiding souls to the Eternal Light. It is as if I were in the era in which the Saints were living their monastic life, at this place. All alive the Saints appear at midday, sometimes at the Church, sometimes at the wall of the courtyard, and at times at my cell. And particularly when they wish to give comfort to the tortured, the fatigued, to the ill in soul and body people, they are present.