Thursday, November 20, 2014

Elder Iakovos Tsalikis, the Long-Range Star of Evia

By Dr. Haralambos M. Bousias,
Great Hymnographer of the Church of Alexandria

The venerable Elder Iakovos Tsalikis, the admirable Abbot of the Monastery of the Venerable David in Evia, was a long-range star who shined in our days with the rays of his simplicity, his goodness, his equal-to-the-angels state and his numerous wonders.

Elder Iakavos was the personification of love, a living embodiment of "the new life in Christ", a projector of virtue and a mirror of humility and temperance.

He embodied and experienced the testament of grace and delighted all those who approached him, since he was entirely the "fragrance of Christ" (2 Cor. 2:15). With his sweet words he gave them rest and conveyed to them the good things of the Holy Spirit, "joy, peace and gentleness" (Gal. 5:22), with which he was gifted, affirming the Gospel phrase: "Out of the abundance of the heart the tongue speaks" (Matt. 12:34).

Elder Iakovos was a spiritual figure of the Monastery of the Venerable David, sent by the philanthropic Lord to the modern lawless Israel and admonished them with the example of his simple yet venerable life and the grace of his words which were always "seasoned with salt" (Gal. 4:6). The Elder was not very educated, but he was overshadowed, like the fishermen of Galilee, with the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, making wise the unwise and moving the lips of those chosen by God to spiritually guide the people to salvation.

Elder Iakovos was born on November 5, 1920 to pious parents, his mother Theodora being from Livisi in Asia Minor and his father Stavros from Rhodes. In early 1922 Turkish cetes captured his father and led him deep into Anatolia.

After the catastrophe of our blessed Asia Minor, which was allowed by God for our sins and apostasy, the family of the Elder followed the hard road of exile. Their ship transferred them over to Itea and from there they settled in Amfissa.

There it pleased the Lord, in 1925, for his father to find them and together as a family they moved to Farakla in Evia.

At the age of seven the young divinely-illumined Iakovos memorized the Divine Liturgy even though he was illiterate. In 1927 he attended elementary school and was distinguished for his performance and his obvious love for the Church and sacred writings.

The appearance of Saint Paraskevi to the young Iakovos and the revelation of his brilliant ecclesiastical future stimulated the faith and piety of the young student.

Often the purity of his life led him to pray for his suffering countrymen, whom he would heal by reading prayers that were irrelevant to their situation, but he did it with much devotion showing to all that the "grace of God was on him" (Lk. 2:40).

In 1933 he completed elementary school, but the financial difficulties of his family did not allow him to continue his studies. So he followed his father in his manual work.

Impressed by his melodious chanting the Metropolitan of Halkidos consecrated him a Reader.

What impressed everyone was his ascetic life, his prayerful disposition, his love for work, his lack of sleep, and his strict observance of the fasts.

In this voluntary personal deprivation he came to add the involuntary suffering of the whole family and that of all the hapless refugees from the dispossession.

In July of 1942 the mother of the Elder died, foretelling his future as a priest. He joined the army in 1947, where he remained undaunted by the derision of his colleagues, who jokingly called him "Father Iakovos".

However, he received admiration from his commander, who was among the few that sensed the future bright spiritual path of the young refugee.

After being released from the army in 1949, Iakovos, at the age of 29, was orphaned also of a father. His focus was on his sister, without, however, neglecting the thoughts of his childhood desire to enter the monastic state.

After his sister married, in November of 1952 he went to the Monastery of the Venerable David near Rovies, fulfilling his desire of completely dedicating his life to God. At the age of 32 Iakovos was tonsured a Monk, and on December 19, 1952 he was ordained a Priest in Halkida by Metropolitan Gregory.

He then continued his ascetic life in the Monastery, with concerted prayer in the cave of the Venerable David, with divine visions and miracles, which increased over time.

He achieved high measures in virtue and suffered many attacks from good-hating demons, who hated his equal-to-the-angels life.

He often saw and spoke with Venerable David and Saint John the Russian, while he was also made worthy of the gifts of foresight and insight.

Often during the Divine Liturgy he would see Angels serving him in the Sacred Altar, Cherubim and Seraphim encircling him covering their faces with their six wings, revering the slain Lamb, the God-man Jesus, on the Holy Paten, broken but not divided, forever eaten yet never consumed.

In August of 1963 in a wondrous way he satiated with three kilos of noodles 75 laborers with generous servings with half a pot of leftovers.

On the 25th of June in 1975 he became the Abbot of the Monastery and held this rudder firmly until his venerable repose on the 21st of November in 1991.

Due to his hermit and ascetic life, however, the health of the Elder was shaken, the veins of his legs rotted, and he had to undergo surgeries for his hernia, his appendix, his prostrate and his heart, even being placed within him a pacemaker.

From 1990 onwards his strength began to leave him. In September of 1991 he was hospitalized at the General State Hospital of Athens for a small infarction.

When he returned to the Monastery he suffered from inflammation, which, unfortunately, turned into pneumonia. He sensed his end.

The morning of November 21, 1991 he followed the Service for the Entrance of our Theotokos, he chanted and he communed of the Immaculate Mysteries.

After confessing some of the faithful he took a walk around the Monastery. In the afternoon he confessed a spiritual daughter of his and waited for the return of his novice Iakovos from Limni, who that day was ordained a Deacon by the Metropolitan of Halkidos.

As soon as the fathers arrived the Elder tried to get up, but became dizzy. His breathing became heavy, his pulse weakened and from his lips came a soft blow.

The Elder took the road to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The people who were informed of his funeral were few.

The phones, however, took fire and from one person to another the sad news spread.

The next day thousands of people flocked to the Monastery, clergy of all ranks and spiritual children of the Elder from all over Greece, who came to give their last embrace.

The courtyard of the Monastery was crowded. The funeral service was chanted outdoors and after his sacred body was processed around the Katholikon. During the procession many of the faithful saw the Elder get up from his coffin to bless the crowd.

Once the sacred body descended into the grave, with one voice the thousands of faithful with resurrection hymns and resurrection bells joyfully cried out: "Saint! Saint!"

Since then Elder Iakovos, with his dozens of posthumous miracles, has been classified in the souls of the faithful as a Saint, by those who await with longing his formal canonization by the Mother Church.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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