Dear Readers: A long time supporter of the Mystagogy Resource Center has informed me that they would like to donate $3000 to help me continue the work of this ministry, but they will only do it as a matching donation, which means that this generous donation will only be made after you help me raise a total of $3000. If you can help make this happen, it will be greatly appreciated and it would be greatly helpful to me, as I have not done a fundraiser this year. If you enjoy the work done here and want to see more of it, please make whatever contribution you can through the DONATE link below. Thank you!
(Total So Far - Day 4: $1750)

July 31, 2009

The Halki Seminary and the Patriarchate’s Existential Crisis

Allen Yekikan
Jul 30th, 2009

AFP reported on Thursday that the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Bartholomew I, was hopeful Turkey would re-open a historic seminary it shut down nearly four decades ago. The Halki Orthodox

Theological Seminary, located on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul, was the key Patriarchical institution for educating the Greek Orthodox Community and training its future clergy for more than a century before it was closed down by the Turkish government in 1971.

The Patriarch was responding to signals last week by Turkey’s Culture Minister that Ankara is planning to re-open the Greek seminary, considered vital to the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

The Turkish Government forcibly closed down the Seminary under a law bringing Turkish universities under the state’s control. Another law, however, made it illegal for anyone to enter the Orthodox priesthood unless they have graduated from Halki.

Since the closure of the Halki Seminary, the Patriarchate has faced insurmountable barriers in staffing the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out the Church’s many administrative and spiritual responsibilities. The only option left for the Patriarchate has been to bring clergymen and individuals from abroad to work at the ecumenical patriarchate, often illegally, since the Turkish government does not give them work permits.

Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no property rights in Turkey and is taxed beyond excess. Under Turkish law, the General Directorate of Welfare Foundations has the power to unilaterally confiscate minority properties.

Along with the Halki Seminary, the Turkish Government has confiscated (usually secretly) 75 % of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s properties, including homes, apartment buildings, schools, land, churches, monasteries, and even cemeteries.

On March 20, 2006 the government erased the name of the Patriarchate from the ownership deed of the Orphanage of Buyukada, replacing it with the name of a minority foundation it had seized in 1997. This move resulted in the effective confiscation of the orphanage.

The Turkish government proceeded with the confiscation despite an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the Patriarchate in 2005. The Orphanage, which is the largest wooden building in Europe, had been a Patriarchal institution, celebrating 550 years of continuous service under the care and guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, preserving the Orthodox Faith, Hellenic Ideals and Greek Education.

In the eyes of the Turkish government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist as a legal entity, and as a result, has virtually no rights. Although it was established in 451 AD, Turkish authorities refuse to recognize the Patriarchate as “Ecumenical” or International. Turkish law has relegated this 2,000 year-old church, which serves as the focal point of Orthodox Christendom, to a Turkish institution.

As a result, the Turkish government also controls the process by which the Ecumenical Patriarch is selected. Through illegal decrees, the government has imposed heavy restrictions on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, requiring the Patriarch and the Hierarchs that elect him to be Turkish citizens. The very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been put in jeopardy as a consequence of these decrees.

Turkish law requires that even priests must be Turkish citizens. This excludes eligible clergy from around the world from attending to Turkey’s Greek community, which now numbers less than 3,000—most of which are elderly and not eligible candidates.

There are currently roughly 200 Greek Orthodox Clergymen who live in Turkey and are Turkish citizens. Without the Halki Seminary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been forced to send its future clerics outside the country for training. Unfortunately, most do not return home. These restrictions severely limit not only who can become a priest, but also who can become the Ecumenical Patriarch.

These policies are wearing away at the Christian presence in Turkey and threaten to eventually wipe out the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which stands as a 2,000 year-old spiritual beacon for more than 300,000 million orthodox Christians around the world.

Since 1923, successive Turkish Governments have subjected the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a protracted and systemic campaign of institutional and cultural repression, squeezing the country’s Greek minority and its religious institutions to the point of complete exhaustion and despair.

Despite direct stipulations in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey must legally recognize and protect its religious minorities, Christian communities in Turkey currently face unfair official restrictions regarding the ownership and operation of churches and seminaries. The Turkish Government interferes in the selection of their religious leaders. Christian education has all but vanished, while freedom of expression and association, although provided for on paper, tend to get people killed.

This political climate of religious repression has, for decades, encouraged extremists to attack the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul defacing its walls and desecrating its cemeteries.

In 1955, riots broke out in Istanbul and quickly turned into pogroms against Greeks as 73 Orthodox churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned, or destroyed; 1,004 houses of Orthodox citizens were looted; and 4,348 stores, 110 hotels, 27 pharmacies, and 21 factories were destroyed. The Greek Orthodox population in 1955 was 100,000. In 1998, a Greek Orthodox official was murdered at his church, Saint Therapon, in Istanbul. The church was then robbed and set on fire.

Growing focus on Turkey in recent years and the country’s bid to join the European Union, has raised awareness and concern about the fate of the Patriarchate among governments, organizations and people around the world.

The European Union has long asked Turkey to re-open the seminary in order to prove its commitment to human rights as it strives to become a member of the bloc.

The Turkish Government, keen to boost its European credentials as it seeks EU membership, says it may finally take steps to prevent the destruction of one of the world’s oldest Christian churches and its Congregation.

The bitter reality is that the very existence of the Patriarchate has been threatened by the very government that is now vaguely promising to save it.

Turkish authorities have been issued such promises for decades.

16th Century Mural on Mount Athos Calls Alexander "King of the Hellenes"

This picture was recently published in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini to show that Alexander the Great, who was a Macedonian, was also a Hellene. From a 16th century perspective, therefore, ancient Macedonia was a part of Hellas (Greece) and not a seperate nation as is commonly held by todays so-called Macedonians. The mural is dated to 1568 from the Monastery of Dochiariou on Mount Athos.

The exact inscription says for the left “Βασιλεύς Ελλήνων Αλέξανδρος” (Alexander King of the Hellenes) and on the right it says “Βασιλεύς Ρωμαίων Αύγουστος” (Augustus King of the Romans).

It should be noted that the term "Hellenes" in the mural refers to ethnicity and not the fact that they were idol worshippers, since Augustus, who even though called a Roman, was also an idol worshipper. Also, this is not the Emperor Alexander who ruled from 912-913 A.D. since this Emperor would not have been called a King of the Hellenes but rather "King of the Romans". No Roman Emperor ever called himself "King of the Hellenes". Furthermore, the Roman Emperor Alexander would have been out of place here since what is clearly being depicted are ancient Kings.

For more information, see here.

July 30, 2009

Papoulakis: Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (7)

...continued from Part 6


A woman named Roza, of the Petalas family, was married in Akarnania. Her husband suffered from atrophy of his right arm, and this evoked repugnance within his insensitive spouse who openly expressed her revulsion for the afflicted man. After some time, however, she herself became ill with a more serious sickness, myelitis, which brought about a paralysis of the lower members of her body. Unable to raise herself from bed, she was moved from Akarnania to her paternal home in Exoge in order for her mother to take care of her. For three full years she suffered terribly, beyond any hope of human help. Realizing now the seriousness of her prior inappropriate behavior toward her spouse, she detested herself, recognizing that because of her callousness she had been abandoned to this chastisement by God. Finding no other consolation, the hapless and paralyzed Roza sought refuge in the unsalaried doctor, Elder Papoulakis, who went to visit her at her home in Exoge. Feeling sympathy for the sick woman, the holy Elder blessed her secretly and told her in a compassionate way, “My child, buy an oil lamp for the church of Saint Barbara and I will pray to God, and your faith will save you.” And so it happened. Having bought the lamp as the holy father had instructed, the former paralytic recovered her ability to use her limbs and in a short time became completely well, remaining ever grateful to the blessed one.


Dionysios Paxinos from Stavros related that Papoulakis had healed a woman and her child. The mother was suffering from a severe, festering inflammation of the eyes, and the child, from eclampsia, a seizure disorder. The Elder healed them through his prayer. Having made the sign of the cross over them with his staff, he conversed with them privately and disclosed to them what they were to offer in recompense if he healed them. This conversation was held in secret, at a distant and remote place.


Another time, while Blessed Joachim was coming from Saint Elias in Kioni, he became thirsty along the way. To a girl named Theodorella who offered him water, he foretold that she would become the wife of a priest, and then he blessed her. Indeed, later this happened just as Saint Papoulakis had prophesied.


In the community of Rapezi at Parga in Epirus, Papoulakis miraculously appeared to the priest there, without knowing the area by sight, and he told him to urge all those who had made votive promises to the church of Saint Barbara not to delay in fulfilling them. The priest did remind the donors, and they gathered together their votive offerings and sent them by boat for Saint Barbara’s. Papoulakis foresaw the delivery and was waiting at Mavronas for the ship’s arrival; he was there to take delivery of the offerings, without anyone having informed him of their arrival.


Once, blessed Papoulakis wanted to go over to Preveza, and he proposed to a ship’s captain who was preparing to go there that he take him along. The captain, however, failed to notify him when he set off. After he arrived at the dock of Preveza, he was astonished to see the Elder walking on the shore, because there was no other ship, nor was there any other means to carry him across. Stunned and ashamed, the captain bowed low to him and asked forgiveness for his indifference.


One time, again in his own area, a mentally ill woman of loose morals had given birth to an illegitimate child, and in order to be rid of the infant, she put it in a roasting pan and lit the oven in order to burn it up. From where he was, Papoulakis foresaw her scheme and quickly sent an old woman to avert the evil deed. They gave the child to be raised in a suitable environment, and the sick woman was placed in a psychiatric hospital on Kerkyra (Corfu).


A young woman from Crete, one of the refugees of 1866, suffered for a long time from arthritis and from a stiffening of her right knee. Once when blessed Papoulakis saw her, he felt sorry for her; he made the sign of the cross over her with his staff, accompanied by a suitable prayer. After a short time, the sick woman was healed and was able to walk normally.


When the blessed Elder was building the church of Saint Barbara, at one point the project had financial difficulties, and he was unable to pay the workmen. Having decided to ask a certain wealthy man in Stavros named Nicholas to help with the situation, he went to visit him at his home. The first meeting was cool and reserved, even though the man nonchalantly asked the Elder how the construction was going. “Fine,” answered the Elder, “but we are in need of money; this is why I’ve come to you, to ask your help so that we can pay the workers from Anogi.” “And how much are you looking for, monk?” Nicholas asked. “I need sixty talers (a five-drachma coin),” replied the Elder. This seemed a lot to Mr. Nicholas, and he turned down his request, using the excuse that he did not have that much. “I pray you will always have everything you deserve,” said the Elder, and he left.

That night, however, the master was in turmoil because of continual terrible nightmares; in particular, he would see Papoulakis in front of him threatening him. Consequently, he was not able to sleep at all that night because of his distress and fear. In the morning, he called his attendant, Stathis Kouros, and told him, “Go quickly and find the monk. My conscience is bothering me and I suffered all night; I was wrong to refuse him.” As soon as the attendant met Papoulakis, and before he told him the reason for his coming, the Elder anticipated him, saying, “Is it true, Stathis, that the master has changed his mind?” “Yes, dear father, you terrified him during the night; he requests to see you right away.” They went together to Mr. Nicholas’s home, where he received him with respect and kissed his hand. “You ‘opened my eyes’ last night, holy monk, and I want to have your blessing. How many talers do you want?” “Sixty talers, and whatever else God inspires you to give,” the Elder replied. He readily counted out the sixty talers, and the Elder thanked the man and blessed him, after he had escorted him as far as the outer gate.


Another time, when Papoulakis was at Vathy on Ithaki, he went at a late hour and knocked at an old woman’s door. She asked who it was and what he wanted. The Elder insisted that she open up for him. When she opened the door and he went inside, he greeted her and then told her in an enigmatic way that heads of families must be attentive to their duties. She replied, “At such an hour, little Father?” “We monks don’t have hours, but hasten to wherever duty calls us. You should not leave the gunpowder close to the fire. As long as the coals are covered by their ashes they are inactive, but when the wind blows and removes the ashes, what will happen to the gunpowder?” “It will ignite, of course,” she responded. The elder repeated these words three times and left. As he was leaving, the woman was pondering what the meaning of these words might be, since she knew that Papoulakis never spoke without a reason. Then it occurred to her that in the house she had her two daughters in one room and a young stranger sleeping in another room together with her boys. The one daughter was having thoughts about sinning with the stranger. Consequently, the woman got her two daughters up from that room and kept them close to her for the rest of that night, thwarting the Devil’s plan. By the Grace of God, the blessed Elder foresaw what would have happened in the middle of the night, and rushed off to prevent the evil deed. Truly, “the wise man’s eyes are in his head” (Eccl. 2:14).


As D. Paxinos from Stavros, Ithaki, related, a poverty-stricken widow lived in his village with her children. Whenever they were in need of something, Papoulakis would provide for them by secretly tossing it through the hole in the door, without anyone having mentioned anything to him. Once, he sent one of the widow’s young children to take a letter to Abbot Agapios of the Holy Monastery of the Angelic Commanders (Taxiarchon) in Perahori. The young boy carried out the request and delivered the letter, which the devout Abbot kissed three times out of pious respect for the holy monk Papoulakis. Out of an excessive sympathy for the child because of his labor in bringing the letter, the Abbot pressed the boy to eat olive oil, even though it was Friday.

To be continued…Part 8

July 29, 2009

The Miraculous Icon of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou in Lykovrisi, Attica

A copy of the wonderworking icon of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou venerated at Lykovrisi and painted by Monk Nektarios in 1919 on Mount Athos (it is signed and dated on the bottom).

By John Sanidopoulos

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou lived in asceticism as a nun in the Monastery of Chrysovalantou in Constantinople in the ninth century. It was located on its fifth hill known then as Chrysovalantou from which the monastery took its name (though according to St. Irene's biography the offical name of this monastery was dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel). Today the fifth of the seven hills of Constantinople is occupied by the Mosque of Sultan Selim and the Church of the Theotokos Pammakaristos and is considered the best place to view Constantinople and the Golden Horn. Though the remains of the monastery have not been found, the only topographical allusion to it that we have is its close proximity to the cistern of Aspar, according to St. Irene's biography, which was on the fifth hill north of the Church of the Holy Apostles (which was on the fourth hill). This monastery operated until the 10th or 11th century.

Interestingly we are informed that following St. Irene's death she was entombed either in or near Chrysovalantou Monastery in the Church of Saint Theodore (possible location of which was here and here if outside the monastery, but this is doubtful). Innumerable miracles were attributed to the sacred relics of St. Irene. However, following the Fourth Crusade and the Fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the story and relics of St. Irene seemed to be lost or little known. A codex (no. 151) was found from the 16th century around 1917 in the Sacred Monastery of Saint Dionysios on Mount Athos that once again revealed her life, and a Service to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou was written by one of our great hymnographers of modern times, by the Athonite monk Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis in 1958.

In the same monastery on Mount Athos there was found an icon of St. Irene as well. This icon was painted in 1919 by a gentleman from Smyrna who lived at Saint Anna's Skete, known as Monk Nektarios. When he returned to Smyrna for a visit in 1922 he was martyred by the Turks together with his companion Monk Cyril Lemonia, who had the gift of prophecy and once said outside his cell, "These days many martyrs will be revealed."

In 1926 a monk from Mount Athos named Archimandrite Paisios Philiokaliotakis gave this icon of St. Irene painted by Monk Nektarios to his spiritual daughter Lemonia upon her elevation to the Great Schema. Upon her elevation to the Great Schema at the age of twenty, Lemonia had her name changed to Meletia.

Nun Meletia had a passion to establish a monastery, and thus bought many acres in an area of Attica known as Lykovrisi. This came about after her mother, who also was a monastic by the name of Taxiarchia, fell asleep on October 10, 1927. To honor her memory it was Abbess Meletias' desire to dedicate her monastery to the Holy Archangels (Taxiarchi).

When construction began on the church of the monastery, one day one of the workers named Michael Gerasimou (who lived in between the streets of Petrou Rally and Archmidous in Chalkidona Peraias) saw with his naked eyes a tall and beautiful nun approaching him. The worker did not recognize this nun and asked her: "Who are you?" She responded: "I am Irene." Upon saying this she distanced herself a bit and with her right hand indicated the spot which today occupies the church dedicated to her name. The worker related this strange appearance of this nun named Irene to the Righteous Abbess Meletia and she also wondered about this unknown nun.

Another time Saint Irene appeared to one of the nuns as she was shutting the window of the building in which they were all staying. This nun saw the same tall beautiful nun which had appeared to the worker pointing to the same spot in which she wanted her church to be built. This seemed strange at the time since the architectural plans called for the church to be built in the area already being worked on. This time however the foundation stone from the other church had been miraculously transferred to the new area desired by St. Irene.

It appears that when the foundation stone had been set with the purpose of building the church dedicated to the Archangels, at that moment the spiritual father of the Abbess Meletia expressed his desire to her to resurrect the name of the Venerable Saint Irene of Chrysovalantou. He told her that she was a great abbess who wants to help establish this monastery as the first founded in her name after the monastery in Constantinople in which she lived her monastic life and became a saint. He wanted her grace to surround this monastery and for the church dedicated to her name to be a well spring of miracles, which would in turn spread her name far and wide throughout the world to eternity.

When Abbess Meletia heard this she was overjoyed as she recalled the manifestation of the mysterious nun Irene and the indication to establish a church foundation in another area.

Eventually this church dedicated to St. Irene Chrysovalantou was built. Desiring for the monastic grounds of this monastery to imitate to a certain extent the monastic life of St. Irene, next to her church they also built a chapel dedicated to the Great Martyr Theodore which originally in Constantinople housed her miraculous relics.

The Monastery of Saint Irene of Chrysovalantou was officially founded in 1930 and the icon of the Saint given to the abbess years earlier was placed in her church for veneration. It was not long before the faithful who came to this monastery witnessed the miraculous grace flowing from this icon. So many stories began circulating that in truth her name became known throughout the Orthodox world. Faithful came from Constantinople, Germany, America, Africa and other such places to venerate this holy icon and offer up their requests. As the fame of the monastery spread, it was built to accommodate its many pilgrims and came to resemble a traditional monastery built in the style of those in Constantinople during Roman times.

On January 29, 1977 Abbess Meletia departed in peace.

Cover of the bi-monthly periodical distributed by the Monastery

The Periodical of the Monastery

In 1960 a bi-monthly periodical began to circulate out of this monastery in Lykovrisi called Righteous Irene of Chrysovalantou (ΟΣΙΑ ΕΙΡΗΝΗ Η ΧΡΥΣΟΒΑΛΑΝΤΟΥ) and has been distributed since for the past fifty years. It was common in the monastery, and still is today, for the faithful who have been aided in one way or another by St. Irene to write a letter of thanks to her and these accounts have been compiled in books by the monastery. In 1964 some of these stories began to be published in the periodical and have been published ever since in both English and Greek. I highly recommend everyone to subscribe to this periodical which you can start receiving for whatever donation you can afford. With the letters and addresses of the faithful it often publishes pictures of children as well born to infertile couples that were blessed by St. Irene, as well as excellent articles to build the faith of Orthodox Christians.

The Miraculous Apples

Saint Irene kept the feast of St. Basil (January 1) especially holy out of great reverence because they both came from Cappadocia. One year after the feast day of St. Basil, during the fourth watch of the night, she heard a voice saying: "Welcome the sailor who brings fruit to you today. Eat it with joy and let your soul be gladdened!" This was followed by a similar voice during Matins saying: "Go to the door and bring in the sailor who is visiting you." She invited the sailor in and they greeted one another, and stayed until the end of the Liturgy. After Liturgy, Irene inquired after the sailor's journey, to which he replied:

"I am a sailor from the island of Patmos and I joined a boat coming to this City for business. As we were passing the coast of that island, we saw a very old man on the shore who called to us to wait for him. We could not because we were near the rocks, so with a good wind behind us we left. He then shouted all the more loudly ordering the boat to stop. This it did at once. Then he came to us walking on the waves and soon entered the boat. Then taking three apples from beneath his cloak, he gave them to me saying, 'When you go to the imperial City, give these to the Patriarch [Methodios] and tell him that the Almighty sends them to him from His beloved disciple, John.' After that he took another three and asked that these be presented to you, the Abbess of Chrysovalantou named Irene. To you he said, 'Eat these and all that your beautiful soul desires will be granted you because this gift comes to you from John in Paradise.' Having said this he blessed God, wished us well, and disappeared."

Irene, with tears of joy, received this gift with thanksgiving from St. John the Theologian, the Apostle, Evangelist, and beloved disciple of Christ. The sailor asked for a blessing and left the monastery.

These three holy apples from Paradise were superior to the earth's fruits: first and foremost in beauty; second, according to fragrance; third, they were markedly larger and extraordinary. To have received such a gift only indicated that none were holier in Constantinople than Patriarch Methodios and Irene.

Irene fasted for a week, thanking God for the apples. After this, she ate small pieces of the first apple daily, without any other form of sustenance, for forty days; when she ate, she smelt as if she was exuding myrrh; during this time, the remaining apples became more beautiful and aromatic. On Holy Thursday, she directed her sisterhood to receive Communion; after the Liturgy, the second apple was divided between them; when eaten, so sweet was the taste that the sisters felt as if their souls were being fed. The third apple was kept until Irene would know what to do with it and until then she would often inhale its outstanding fragrance. She partook of this marvelous apple the last week before her repose, at 103 years of age, as her only sustenance.

In the narthex of the Church of St. Irene in Lykovrisi there is a sign concerning the apples distributed at the monastery which reads: "You eat, you believe, you hope" (Τρως, πιστεύεις, ελπίζεις). This pretty much summarizes the instruction on how to obtain divine grace and receive divine intervention towards your needs.

The Monastery of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou in Lykovrisi contains what many believe to be an actual tree of life. Apples played a major role in the life of St. Irene and the monastery has planted apple trees that are blessed and mediate divine grace and healing to all those who receive it with proper faith and preparation. Remarkably these apples also do not rot when cut in slices and maintain moisture, and there is a wonderful fragrance that emit from these apples for a long time even when they dry up after many months.

Many couples who wish to have a child frequently visit or request apples to be sent to them from this monastery hoping in a miracle. Thousands over the years have received this miracle, as is evidenced by the large number of both males and females among the Orthodox who bear the name of either Chrysovalantou or Chrysovalanti. Children who are considered a gift of St. Irene through her miraculous intervention either bear this name as a first or middle name. I have given a sample of two such miracles that appeared in last months periodical of the monastery at the bottom of this page.

It is not only infertile couples which receive miraculous intervention, but also those who are suffering any kind of ailment such as various body pains, cancers, incurable illnesses and diseases, and even emotional pains. It is recommended that to be a recipient of such divine grace, that one must fast strictly for three days and pray. Couples should not enter into sexual relations for those three days either. During those three days if you have holy water, a little should be drunk each day and if you have holy oil from the monastery you should anoint the area of the body for which you are praying with the sign of the cross. If it is a child you are seeking, the mother should also request a belt/cord that is made by the nuns with prayers and blessed for the specific purpose of receiving a child as a gift. When the three days have passed you are to eat the apple. If it be God's will, believe that God will heal you of your ailment and suffering through the intercessions of his faithful and fervent intercessor St. Irene.

The Blessing of the Apples takes place every year on the feast of the Saint on July 28th. A prayer is said "in remembrance of the three apples which were given from Paradise to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou". The apples keep vigil during the service in front of the wonderworking icon of the Saint at which time the appropriate prayer of blessing is said for divine grace to permeate through the apples to bring life to infertile couples and health to all those in need.

In some parishes it is customary to bless apples on the feast of St Irene Chrysovalantou.

My Aunt Received a Vision of Saint Irene in Athens

My mother Panagiota has a very special reverence for Saint Irene Chrysovalantou. Every time she travels to Greece from Boston she always makes a special trip to St. Irene's monastery in Lykovrisi to venerate her wonderous icon. Growing up we always had the periodical being mailed to us from the monastery and our home never lacked a slice from the miraculous holy apple.

One year back in the 1970's she made one of her special pilgrimages together with my father Panagioti and my Aunt Penelope, or Popi as we all call her. Whenever my mother visited this monastery she would always make an offering in gold to the holy icon to be used for the benefit of the monastery and this year she continued that tradition. My father also was wearing a gold necklace and decided to offer this as well. When his older sister, my aunt, saw this she scolded him saying: "Panagiota already made an offering. There is no need for you to make one too and lose your expensive gold necklace." This sounded logical to my father, so he put his necklace back on and they left for Menidi (where my aunt lived) after all had venerated the holy icon.

That night everyone went to bed. As my Aunt Popi was getting ready her husband Apostoli had already fallen asleep. My aunt then got into bed and before she fell asleep, even though the room was pitch dark, she saw a nun enter her bedroom. With fear my aunt looked at her. The nun then said: "Penelope, why did you not allow Panagioti to make his offering?" The nun then turned around and disappeared as she walked away. My aunt realized at once that St. Irene had visited her and scolded her for what she had done.

The next morning when everyone awoke she urgently told my father and mother to get dressed because they had to go back to the monastery for my father to make his offering. They returned to the monastery and my father gladly made his offering.

Years later I had the chance to visit this monastery with my Aunt Popi. In front of the wonderworking icon of St. Irene she became very reverential, remembering the scolding she had received years earlier.

My Grandfather Was Healed By Saint Irene of his Lung Cancer

The following was written by my sister Vaso Christopoulos concerning another miracle of St. Irene related to the one above, but this time involving my grandfather.

In 1995, my Grandfather, Vasili, who lived near us in Boston, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 21 years old and planned a vacation to Greece for that summer. During his chemotherapy treatments my mother Panayiota, who has a special devotion to St. Irene Chrysovalantou, had given her father, my grandfather, the monthly periodicals she received in the mail from St. Irene Chrysovolantou Monastery for him to read since they were written in Greek. These periodicals were filled with miraculous stories of healings through the prayers of St. Irene. He was very moved by these and found faith and hope from reading the stories. He asked that when I visit St. Irene's Monastery to give them a donation from him and buy him an icon of St. Irene as well as a "milo" [apple].

I arrived in Greece and decided to just have a relaxing vacation by myself and visit family, allowing myself no burden of having anything planned. During my stay in Athens I visited with my Aunt Popi from Menidi [see above] and I had the beautiful opportunity (I believe) to be part of a miracle of St. Irene Chrysovolantou. It was a very hot summer afternoon. I spent the day at my aunts house relaxing because of the heat. There weren't many neighbors or family around that day. I had taken an afternoon nap as I usually did, but that afternoon was different. I woke up from my nap with an extreme urgency to go visit the monastery immediately. I didn't question myself nor did I care about the heat or how I was going to get there, but I got up with a mission to go immediately. I remember telling my Aunt Popi and cousin Demetri: "I MUST go to the monastery right now!" Without question, they agreed. My cousin Demetri had a long day at work, but simply said: "OK let's go, I will drive you!" I went with the monetary donation that my Pappou Vasili had given me, and upon his request I prayed before the icon of St. Irene for his recovery of the cancer, spoke to two nuns about my Pappou Vasili, and they assisted me in lighting a candle on his behalf and gave me the milo, an icon and their monthly periodical to bring back to him. I knew I had to call my mother and tell her the task that my Pappou asked me to fulfill was complete.

I called my mother in Boston from my Aunt Popi's house the very next morning when I woke up. I remember telling her the details of my visit to the monastery and at the end of the conversation she gasped and questioned me again to clarify if I really went the day before. I told her yes. Apparently during the time of my visit to the monastery it was also the same time that my Pappou was visiting the doctors to get the test results of his on-going cancer treatments for the lung tumor. The results came back clear of all traces of the tumor. Our family firmly believes that this was a miracle of St. Irene and I have the humble honor of being a part of it. I tear up just by the thought of this.

Two Miracles of Saint Irene Published in the Periodical of the Monastery in its Most Recent Issue

Letter One

Sweet Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, we want to thank you so much for your kindness towards our family through your miracles.

When I called on you, you comforted us in our time of anguish. All our hopes were in God and you Saint Irene Chrysovalantou.

We feel so small in front of you and our feelings cannot be described on this lifeless paper. For the rest of our lives we will talk about you, healer of human pain.

The time has come for us to tell of the miracle you worked for us and the help you showed us. When we got married we wanted to have a child but nearly two and a half years went by.

I, Chrysovalantis, the husband of Joanna, wanted very much to become a father. One night as I was praying in my house and because I wanted to feel the experience of fatherhood I vowed that if I had a child I would call it by your name even though I had the same name Chrysovalantis. That is what happened.

You heard my prayers and in October 2004 my Chrysovalantis was born. That is why my son and I have the same name because I from one of your miracles came into existence. That miracle was also published in your magazine as my mother had also vowed to Saint Irene to give me her name.

Now I will let my wife Joanna continue relating the miracle.

It is true that before I married Chrysovalantis I knew nothing about you, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou and what I know today I learned from my husband. Newlywed I came for the first time with my husband Chrysovalantis and I prayed before your miraculous icon to give me a child.

I left impressed by what I had seen at the Monastery and with the hope that you would hear my prayer. Time went by and my desire for a child grew bigger but worry tormented me.

One night I dreamed of you Saint Irene. Even though you were at a distance from me you looked at me and beckoned to me with your blue eyes to come near you. I ran to reach you but bumped into a tree which had no leaves or fruit.

You told me to stand under the tree and I saw a red apple which I picked stretching my arms. At that moment I woke up. Stunned by the dream I was sure that you would help me to make reality what I so much desired. That is what happened.

After two months I was pregnant with many problems. The placenta came away and I was in danger of having a miscarriage. At one and a half months the doctors recommended strict measures and bed rest. One day I had terrible pains with hemorrhage. I phoned the doctor and told him and he replied that I had lost the baby and to go to the hospital to be cleared.

When in tears I arrived at the doctors with my husband in terrible pain holding the icon of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou and praying not only did I not lose the child but I too heard his heart beat. Not only us but the doctor too was sure of the miracle which Saint Irene Chrysovalantou had worked. He advised me to stay in bed for the rest of the pregnancy until I give birth.

During my pregnancy from time to time I heard a sweet voice saying, "Let Ioanna relax because in a short time she will give birth to Chrysovalanti."

The problems continued to become more and more dangerous. I had severe spasms in the womb and I was continuously going to the hospital for various problems as well as for my breathing problem. The doctors said it was impossible for this pregnancy to reach full term unless a miracle happens.

Seeing I was in this condition I asked for your Monastery to send me, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, the cord and holy apple which I received quickly. I wore the cord immediately around my waist and ate the holy apple with much faith.

In the sixth month of my pregnancy I had signs that I was going into labour. The doctor told me I must stay in the hospital for observation. I saw you in my sleep, sweet Saint Irene, and you were holding a baby boy in a blue sleep suit and you said, "Ioanna, do not be afraid; I will hold the child in my arms for three months. Do not worry little Chrysovalantis will be fine and healthy."

This is what happened. In spite of all the problems I was healthy and you did not allow my child to come to harm. When I reached the ninth month the doctors were all amazed how my pregnancy could reach full term. They all called me a heroine.

In October 2004 my Chrysovalanti was born. At the time I could see above my head a huge light and thousands of stars. I was sure that you supported me until the last moment and were next to my side.

I, Ioanna and my husband Chrysovalantis, thank you, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, for enabling us to hold in our arms little Chrysovalanti who is also a child of yours.

We shall always thank you for the rest of our life. Please always have us under your protection and we shall never forget your living miracle which you worked for us.

With endless respect, gratitude and thanks
The parents
Chrysovalantis and Ioanna Hania
Volos, Greece

Letter Two

Sweet Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, thank you for the miracle which you worked for me.

I had been married for sixteen whole years and I had not had a baby yet. I came to the Monastery and prayed before your miraculous icon and ate your holy apple after three days of fasting. You worked your miracle at once.

Even though the doctors said there was a problem I would not accept it. I believed that you would help me, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, and you gave me twins. I told my husband to call the one by your name and we did. So I brought into this world my Chrysovalantou and Constantina, two beautiful and healthy little girls.

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou I thank you for working your miracle for me and you enabled me to become a mother. Please always protect us and be near us when we need you.

The parents
Georgia and Christos Avgerantonis
Fthiotida, Greece

The Monastery Today

Today the monastery follows one of the strictest monastic rules in any convent in Greece and adheres to the Old Calendar. The nuns maintain a permanent fast at this monastery in imitation of St. Irene, their Abbess. It comprises a building which occupies approximately 50 acres.

It offers accomodations for both men and women in seperate wings for those who wish to stay at the monastery to participate in its worship services. These several guest rooms are available throughout the year except on the feast day of St. Irene on July 28th (according to the Old Calendar). Because of the nuns strict fast, they only offer pilgrims fruit and nuns, so if one wishes to eat at the monastery one must bring their own food and not expect to feast in the dining room as in most other monasteries.

Suitable clothing must be worn to enter the monastery. Shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless shirts, are strictly prohibited from both men and women. Men are to be dressed as men and women as women. This means that women are prohibited from wearing any kind of pants and must wear a long dress to cover their legs. In fact when I visited this monastery at the age of 16 I was wearing shorts and the nuns would not allow me to enter no matter how much my mother and family tried to persuade them. They allowed me to enter only when I wrapped my grandmothers shawl around my legs. Sometimes they provide skirts for forgetful women, so don't hesitate to try to visit if you forget to bring your skirt for this pilgrimage.

If a woman wishes to venerate any icons, lipstick must be completely removed.

The monastery is open to the faithful during the following times:

Opens at 07:00 (their time)
Closes at 17:00 (their time)
Opens at 07:00 (their time)
Closes at 18:00 (their time)

If anyone wishes to make a pilgrimage or contact this monastery to make a small donation and request a slice or two of the miraculous apple, subscribe to their periodical, send in prayer requests or a thanksgiving letter, or purchase an icon or holy water or holy oil or a belt/cord or books, the following methods of contact should be taken:

Contact details for the monastery:

Αγ.Ειρήνης Χρυσοβαλάντου
17 Λυκόβρυση
Αθήναι 14123


St. Irene Chrysovalantou
17 Lykovrisi
Athens, Greece 14123

Telephone: there is no phone communication with the monastery.

Affiliation: This is an Old Calendar Monastery (G.O.C.) and is not in communion with the canonical or official Orthodox Church.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Not a temporal kingdom on earth didst thou obtain, but Christ, thy most comely Bridegroom, vouchsafed thee heavenly crowns, and thou reignest as a queen with Him eternally; for thou didst dedicate thyself unto Him with all thy soul, O Irene, our righteous Mother, thou boast of Chrysovalantou, and mighty help of all the Orthodox.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Leaving all the world behind with its impermanent glory, thou wast wedded unto Christ, the King immortal and holy, bringing Him as precious dowry thy maiden beauty and thy trophies won through abstinence over demons. O Irene, our righteous Mother, entreat thy Bridegroom to show His mercy to us.

The gate of the Monastery

The holy water in the courtyard of the Monastery

Courtyard of the Monastery

The wonderworking icon of St. Irene adorned with gifts from the faithful.

The dome of the church. The bottom-most icon depicts St. John the Theologian giving the sailor the six apples from Paradise off the coast of Patmos.

The iconastasis of the Church of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou with her icon encased in silver next to the Theotokos.
Mosaics of the Monastery

Mosaic of St. Irene together with its creator Vlasios Tsotsonis.

Papoulakis: Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (6)

The village of Vathy in Ithaki (Ithaka)

...continued from Part 5

It is feasible for a person to know things and facts about the world through scientific research and comparison; but to penetrate into the heart of a spiritual person is not only unfeasible, it is impossible. Only if he himself wants it to be revealed will it become known. This mystery of the interior world of every human being is what the Lord was referring to when he said, “two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left” (Matt. 24:40). Divine Providence was now calling blessed Elder Joachim Papoulakis to enlighten and purify others as well, since he had arrived at perfection by means of the strict practical life he had lived, becoming “taught by God” (Jn. 6:45), “bringing out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52). ”Experiencing, he was taught,” according to the patristic maxim, “having learned, he taught” whatever he had acquired through his blessed discernment and insight. Illuminating and sanctifying Divine Grace filled him to overflowing, particularly with the divine qualities of clairvoyance and foreknowledge, which were precisely what the circumstances required during that grievous period. One might say that he was an answer on the part of the Divine Benevolence to the supplication of the Christian people. Every supernatural intervention of Divine Grace is certainly an encouragement to the faithful, because it is a consolation in their tribulations. The prophetic characteristic, however, is even more so, because it anticipates misfortunes and increases faith, upon which the entire spiritual edifice is built. If, according to the Scriptural maxim, “each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7), then rightly the charisma of prophecy was found in abundance in this blessed luminary, which he exercised with deep humility, hidden from curious eyes, for the building of the Church and the Christian people.

As mentioned in the notes of his biographer, Papoulakis - as the people now always called him after he became publicly known - most often stayed at Vathy on Ithaki. With contributions from the faithful, he was able to marry off the two daughters of a widowed woman who most frequently gave him hospitality. He traversed Vathy and, when possible, those needy precincts in the surrounding area, teaching, consoling, and upholding the faith and Christian morals, trying never to be a burden to anyone. Whatever alms and items of assistance the faithful furnished him with, he distributed among the poor and destitute, keeping nothing for himself, by virtue of the great frugality that was his lifelong practice. The greater part of the year, he dwelt outdoors. Only during the four months of winter did he live indoors; he slept very little, keeping vigil and struggling through various methods to “discipline the body” (see 1 Cor. 9:27). As an ascetic practice, he carried about a lead plate in order to weary the flesh. During this period, God allowed him to receive criticism and ridicule from negligent men who sometimes turned against him with viciousness. These people struck him and spat upon him; the children especially joined them in hurling stones at the Saint, who patiently suffered everything, never complaining or bearing resentment towards anyone.

During his time, the Ionian Islands, including his homeland of Ithaki, were not under the Turkish yoke like the rest of our country, but were instead under English domination, supposedly being protected by the British. In reality, however, they imposed another kind of yoke, often more severe than that of the Turks. The faithful people, aware of the cunningness of this “civilized fox” that had assumed leadership, sought their liberation and their union with Greece. This irritated the would-be guardians, who also had on their side the local opportunistic betrayers of the homeland. At this time, Papoulakis played a very important role among his struggling compatriots, continually rousing their zeal for union. To those who had become fainthearted, he gave much courage, and foretold that soon Britain would depart and, moreover, without a war. This prophecy of the Saint was soon realized; the areas that had been severed from the fatherland for so many centuries were once again united with it. The counsel of Papoulakis, who tirelessly motivated the people toward the aspirations of the nation, was crowned with success.

After his stay at Gouva and Afentikos Longos, his biography mentions that Papoulakis lived in the cells of Saint Nicholas of Mavronas. So that he could have constant contact with his listeners, a certain thoughtful gentleman ceded him a small house in Rachi Kioniou, where the Saint resided for quite some time. This little community at that time did not have its own church, so its residents went to the services at the privately owned church of Saint Nicholas in Mavronas.

Blessed Papoulakis motivated the residents of Rachi to build their own church, and he himself undertook the supervision of this project. The program called for the church to be dedicated to the Annunciation of the Lady Theotokos. Using every means, untiringly and with patience, he brought to completion this great work, which to this day bears witness to his fatherly affection and his industry. With his pious yearning and zeal to rouse the withered religious sentiment of the people, he even made provision for the devotional aspect of our Faith. The churches, whether large or small, were fashioned with the necessary materials, according to the circumstances and the number of people. He went about from place to place, wherever Divine Providence led him, and when he ascertained a particular need of the people, he took care to do whatever was possible, as was within his power.

While staying in the community of Stavros, he saw that there was no parish church and, consequently, that this would likely serve as a justification for the residents to neglect their duty of attending the services. Once again, he zealously took the initiative to see that a church be built there as well in order to serve the people. On the northern slopes of Mount Niritos, in the community of Stavros, there had been a little church many years ago, but only its ruins remained. According to tradition, it had been dedicated to Saint Barbara. During the many years that the chapel was deserted, a carob tree sprouted in the sanctuary and eventually took on such dimensions that there remained no visible sign of what had once been there. Following the decision to reestablish the church on this site, Papoulakis undertook the uprooting of the huge tree, as well as the preparation of the needed materials for the construction — no easy task at that time of poverty and when such means and resources were hard to acquire. With the ready support of the residents, he at first built a small church in the name of the Holy Great-Martyr Barbara. It proved, however, to be insufficient for the needs of the community; consequently, he began planning a larger church on the same spot, around the smaller church, which was demolished after the completion of the larger.

As we describe it here in writing, the project seems easy and simple; but in practice, it was arduous and laborious, particularly in the effort to acquire funds in those difficult times. Clearly, the successful completion of this great work can only be explained if you perceive the divine intervention that came about through the prayers of this holy man. He prayed day and night for this, beseeching the great-martyr and bride of Christ Barbara to palpably demonstrate her solidarity with the project, something that could hardly be doubted by anyone who saw the completion of such a great work.

The blessed founder Papoulakis was not satisfied simply with the construction of the church; he also built cells for monks, which later served as accommodations for devout pilgrims. The indefatigable Elder extended the same care to the furnishing and embellishment of the church, as well as to the rest of the necessities, which he provided for from the generous offerings of the emigrant Ithacans. He had written to all of them in order to urge them to support this cause, since it had already become the parish church of the community of Stavros.

During approximately the same period of time, a deadly plague broke out on Ithaki, and in the community of Anogi especially, there were many fatalities. The people ran to the “volunteer doctor” Papoulakis, beseeching him to pray to God to bring an end to this great fury. This prompted the blessed one to build a church in their community dedicated to Saint Athanasius the Great. He himself prayed to Saint Athanasius, and indeed this terrible scourge abated. Everyone confessed that this miracle happened through his prayers, particularly since the little church had been built in one day.

Every friend of God throughout the Church’s three eras — of the Oral Tradition (before Moses, that is), of the Law, and of Grace — believes and moves about under the influence and the spirit of chiefly two commandments: love of God and love of neighbor. Rightly then it is said that “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40). The way, however, of putting them into practice varies according to the persons involved, what is taking place, and the overall context. In the practical demonstration of love of neighbor, pious persons do not all use the same means, even though the aim is the same. The servants of God, either individually or in groups, attempt to make their own the Scripture saying, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21); consequently, “they are no longer their own” (see 1 Cor. 1:6). In their multi-faceted spiritual readiness to struggle, whether within the world, “those who only use this world” (see1 Cor. 7:31), or outside the flesh and the world, those “wandering in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:38), they have one goal — “to please God” (1 Thes. 4:1); indeed, “they do not weary of following Him, nor do they desire the day of man” (see Jer. 17:16 LXX).

The various forms of their outward life are not an end in themselves, but rather express their yearning and their God-instilled eros, for which they are willing to sacrifice everything, even “their own life” (Lk. 14:26). They completely turn all their inclinations toward God, their heart’s desire, “with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength” (see Mark 12:30) and readily offer every honorable and noble thing that is useful for the struggle toward pleasing God. In the various oppositions to their desire for God, when a general evil incites resistance by means of its diverse devices, they neither bend nor become fainthearted, so “that the ministry may not be blamed” (2 Cor. 6:3). If the opposition, as unrestrained evil, calls even for the sacrifice of their life, it finds them willing and fearless in the face of “those who kill the body” (Matt. 10:28), and they are given “in that very hour what they ought to say” (Lk. 12:12) or do. This vehemence of the consummate love of the righteous towards God then turns back like a reflection and embraces their fellow man, their “neighbor.” Truly the first commandment, “you shall love the Lord your God” (Mk. 12:30), is a beam of light that shines back with the consequence and result being “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31). The love of the saints for their fellow man is unbroken throughout the whole of history, and in their lives there are innumerable examples of their self-sacrifice “for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51) and its salvation. They lived out and experienced in depth the Scriptural saying, “let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 10:24), and greater still, “we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16). Blessed Papoulakis made this rule of love for our neighbor his own; this is why he “went about doing good and healing all” (Acts 10:28), according to the measure of their own faith.

In order to conceal his miracle-working grace, this blessed man of God instructed those who approached him for help ostensibly to take some holy water, to make a votive offering, or to do some other good work; thus he covered over his own supernatural intervention, just as so many of our Fathers have done.

To be continued…Part 7

July 28, 2009

A Simple Biomedical Presentation of the First Miracle of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi Who Smiled 45 Minutes After His Death

The Elder Joseph's facial expression immediately after his death.
The Elder Joseph's facial expression change 45 minutes after his death.

28 July, 2009

(The author is a well known researcher in the field of Sports Medicine in Germany)

Part 1. The Contemporary Situation

The present contribution describes a miracle that, as far as we know, is almost unheard of in the entire history of Christianity. A dead person (Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi) smiled. Impressive is the fact, that this smile occurred 45 minutes after his death. This is photographically documented. There have been reported a lot of miracles with dead persons (prophets, saints, e.t.c.). But almost never before did there occur a miracle like the one that happened on July 1, 2009 in the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi (Mount Athos, Greece).

For many months, the spiritual family of Elder Joseph (namely the Brotherhood of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi and especially Abbot Ephraim) has suffered a unique, for our days, persecution. The latter consists of all kinds of lies and slander. Every father is sad when his children are acused. But he is much more sad when the acusations are faulty. Elder Joseph, being the spiritual father of this family, suffered from this persecution as well. But where sin abounded (in this case the unjust and systematic persecution of the Vatopaidi Brotherhood and of Abbot Ephraim by the pathetic watchdogs of the New World Order), grace did much more aboud (in this case the smile from eternity) (Apostle Paul, Romans 5:20).

The smile from eternity, is another actual confirmation of the word of a former persecutor of the Christianity (Saul). He recognized the Truth (Jesus Christ), converted to the True Faith, became an Apostle (Paul) and sacrificed himself – he was martyred for the Truth. The present persecution (of the Vatopaidi Brotherhood) is impressive. But much more impressive is the reply of God, namely the smile from eternity. May this smile strengthen the faith of the believers, and enlighten the mind (nous) both of the persecutors and of those who want to know the truth.

It would be good that every one who would like to find the truth, to ask himself the following:

1) Why did the Mass Media not make any mention of such an impressive miracle?

2) Why did there not take place (in the Mass Media) a rudimentary discussion concerning the facts that the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi was found by the court to be not guilty?

As far as concerns the second question, there are interesting texts:

a) Ξεκινάει η Δικαίωση της Ιεράς Μεγίστης Μονής Βατοπαιδίου (in Greek – "The Justification of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi Begins") 11 Ιουλίου, 2009.

b) Το δικαστήριο Ξάνθης δικαίωσε την Μονή Βατοπαιδίου (in Greek – "The Court of Xanthi Justified the Monastery of Vatopaidi") 11 Ιουλίου, 2009.

c) Information Bulletin concerning the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi

d) Open Letter of the Abbot Efraim

Part 2. The Miracle – Biomedical Presentation

From the moment of death, all organs stop their function: the heart, the brain, the lungs, the muscles, e.t.c. As far as the muscles are concerned, it is well known that when someone dies they become rigid (muscular stiffness). For this reason, from the moment of death, no mattter how hard somebody tries, it is very difficult to move (by using normal means), e.g. the arms or other parts of the dead person’s body.

This was the case for Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi as well: when he died, his mouth was open. No matter how hard the monks tried, they could not manage to keep it closed (the relevant pictures document this fact). This phenomenon (from a biomedical viewpoint) is due to the earlier mentioned muscular stiffness.

A person who is alive can smile because the facial muscles can contract. But nobody, due to muscular stiffness, can bring the facial muscles of a dead person in such a position that the dead corpse smiles. Since it is impossible for somebody to close the mouth of a dead (even if he ties it), it is far more inconceivable to bring his facial muscles in such a position, that the face of the dead has a smile. [VatopaidiFriend: But even if there was no muscular stiffness, is a person's face made of plasteline, for a smile to be "moulded"?]

According to contemporary scientific knowledge, nobody by any means can cause a dead person to smile. On the other hand, if this possibility existed (namely to bring a smile to the dead by artificial means), it would have been already applied to other dead people.

This is the great miracle that occurred in the case of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. Not only did his mouth close, but he even smiled. Even more impressive is the fact that this smile was documented (photographed) 45 minutes after his death. Moreover, it is surprising that the Elder Ephraim (the Abbot of the Monastery of Vatopaidi) insisted that the monks should reveal the face of Elder Joseph. Did he receive information from God?

About two years ago I had the blessing to meet the ever-memorable Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. At that time he had exactly the same smile that he had after his death, the smile that comes from eternity.

O death, where is thy sting?

Contemporary science does not have the means to analyze the smile that comes from eternity. By using human means, it can just register it and photograph it.

The Grace of God and miracles cannot be scientifically investigated, but they can be lived.

Eternal be your memory Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi! Pray for us!

A many years pilgrim of Mount Athos (30 years).

See here: Why’s the Smile of Elder Joseph From Eternity? (text and pictures)

Patriarch Kyrill in Ukraine: Pigeons From All Over Kiev Flew to the Kiev Lavra on the Caves

Kiev, Ukraine
July 27, 2009

A day before Patriarch Kirill's arrival to the Kiev Lavra on the Caves parishioners and clerics watched an unusual phenomenon: pigeons massively migrated to the holy place.

"I've never seen so many pigeons in the Lavra. I saw most of them not far from the refectory church in the upper part of the Kiev Lavra on the Caves," Ukrainian edition of the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily has cited a local seminarian as saying on Monday.

Pigeons flew to the Lavra from all over the city, they sat down to cornices of the buildings restored especially for the visit of the Russian Church Primate.

Parishioners told they saw something similar this spring, though on a smaller scale, when relics of St. Spyridon were brought to Kiev from the Greek island Kerkyra.

"Just a few hours before the relics were brought in pigeons started flying around the Lavra. It looked so impressive," Kiev resident Anna says. "And now the day before His Holiness came, birds are gathering again. I believe it's a good sign."

For Patriarch Kirill's visit, a square before the Lavra's Elevation of the Holy Cross Church was restored and the caves where relics lie were whitewashed. Besides, the chapel was renovated and restoration works in the Church of Our Lady, the Joy of All Who Sorrow, are almost completed.

Patriarch Kirill Visits Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

July 27, 2009

After celebrating a Divine Liturgy at Volodymyr Hill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill has arrived in Kiev-Pechersk Lavra he had earlier described as 'a great shrine; a visit to which gives such a charge of spiritual energy one can draw from it for a long time'.

He had earlier said of the Lavra, 'there is the first throne of the Primates of the Russian Orthodox Church,' according to the Press-Center of the Visit. “When I received, by tradition, the staff of St. Peter, Metropolitan of Kiev, as a symbol of spiritual power, from the hands of His Beatitude Metropolitan Volodymyr [Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - ed.], I felt internal need to visit Kiev as soon as possible, the Holy Land of our Church, to bow unto the relics of the venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves,” the Patriarch noted.

Patriarch Kirill was met at the Near Caves by the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in particular, by Deputy Abbot of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Archbishop Pavel of Vyshhorod, who addressed Patriarch Kirill with a greeting. After that, Patriarch Kirill attended the Church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross, where he prayed unto the Wonderworking Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Also the Patriarch had his photos taken together with the monastery brethren.

Patriarch Kirill has arrived in Ukraine on July 27 to stay till August 5.

Protest Against Patriarch Kirill’s Visit Gathered on St. Volodymyr’s Mount

July 27, 2009

Around 300 people gathered on St. Volodymyr’s Mount to protest the visit to Ukraine of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. UNIAN news agency reports that the protestors stand in separate groups in front of the Ukrainian House at the start of Trokhsvyatytelska Street, on the side of the European Square, as well as on both sides of the street.

According to the information, the protestors held Ukrainian state flags, flags of the nationalist organization UNA-UNSO, and others. They chanted such slogans as: “For Ukraine a National Orthodox Church!,” “Away With the Muscovite Colonizer Priest!,” and “For Ukraine an Independent Church!.”

Police cordons and workers of military special detachments surrounded either side of the Trokhsvyatytelska Street to hold back the protests.

However, a communiqué released by the Ukrainian Union of Veterans of Afghanistan (UUVA) and UNA-UNSO stated that provocative groups of different kinds, including a “pseudo-UNSO” group, are preparing aggressive protests against the visit to Ukraine of Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. Thus, UUVA and UNA-UNSO came together to prevent any provocations during Patriach Kirill’s visit to Ukraine. They called on their countrymen to “withhold from illegal actions, and to not give in to provocation.”

“Ukraine is a democratic state, where each person had the right to freely express his opinions. However, the actions of our countrymen have to be within a certain limit since we belong to a nation with an ancient culture with old civilized traditions. Our organizations have various political views and ideological inclinations, but we are united by our love to Ukraine and our desire to live in a civilized, democratic, and developed state,” said in the communiqué, which was signed by the head of the UUVA, General Major S. Chervonopyskyj, and the head of UNA-UNSO, Hero of Ukraine, Juriy Shukhevych.

Russian Church Leader Starts 10-day Tour of Ukraine

July 27, 2009

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, embarked on a 10-day visit to Ukraine on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.

In the capital Kiev, Kirill will visit holy sites and meet with President Viktor Yushchenko before touring eastern and western Ukraine, and the Crimean peninsula.

Ukraine is a predominantly Orthodox country, but the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided, with the Moscow Patriarchy controlling the larger branch of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Yushchenko, who has pursued pro-Western policies and sought to reduce Russian influence in the country, has advocated unifying Ukrainian Orthodox churches under the Kiev Patriarchate.

Several dozen protesters gathered outside the airport in Kiev as Krill arrived. Clad in yellow and blue clothes, the colors of Ukraine`s national flag, they held up banners saying: "We serve to God, not the Kremlin," and "Ukraine needs its own church."

Patriarch Kirill will visit the Kiev Lavra, one of the oldest monasteries in Ukraine and Russia, lay flowers at a statue of St. Prince Vladimir, who converted to Christianity in 988 and baptized the medieval state of Rus, and pay tribute to the victims of Soviet-era famine Holodomor, which the Ukrainian authorities say was genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Kirill will stay in Kiev, which he calls "the southern capital of Russian Orthodoxy," until Wednesday and will hold two services in the laura, meet with Ukrainian church officials and believers, and give a live television interview.

The patriarch is likely to receive a warm welcome in the Russian-speaking east, but nationalist groups in Ukraine`s west have protested against what they call the patriarch`s treatment of Ukraine as part of Russia.

Speaking to Ukrainian journalists ahead of the visit, Kirill said this would be a pastoral, rather than political, visit.

"My goal is to pray with the Ukrainian people. This may seem odd or hypocritical, or even untrue to some people. But this is what I plan to do," he said.

The visit will be the longest foreign trip so far by Patriarch Kirill, who was elected to replace the late Alexy II in February.

(See videos of Patriach's visit here.)

July 27, 2009

Sickness and Pain Are A Gift of God: Saint Panteleimon Comes to the Aid of Monk Daniel

In the Kalyva of Saint Chrysostomos of the Skete of Koutloumousiou of the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mount Athos, there lived years ago Monk Daniel who for 20 years was sick and had headaches and backaches, kidney and heart problems, leg problems and pain sometimes throughout his entire body.

Many times he travelled to doctors and received numerous X-ray examinations and radiographies, but the outcome was always the same. The doctors could not find any physical explanation for his sickness. Yet Monk Daniel continued to suffer his sicknesses and there was not a physician or scientist to be found that could help him.

One 27th of July, during the vigil of Saint Panteleimon, brother Daniel prayed with tears in his eyes and pleaded with Saint Panteleimon saying: "Saint of God and protector of our Skete, you who are a physician and for the love of Christ was martyred and spilled your blood, show your love and plead to the Master Christ to grant me health, so that with health I could glorify His name and psalmodize during the vigils."

Having said this, Monk Daniel grew a bit tired and took some sleep. He then in a vision saw Saint Panteleimon kneeling before the throne of God pleading for the health of Daniel. Monk Daniel heard the Master Christ say to Saint Panteleimon: "My brother Great Martyr Panteleimon, do you think you are more compassionate than me? Do you think you love humanity more than me? I understand that out of love for me you spilled your blood, but did I not also spill mine and daily spill my blood for the salvation of people's souls? Learn that it is my will in which it happens many times for the body to suffer in order for the soul to be saved. This is how I want many people to be saved."

When brother Daniel heard this he awoke and glorified the name of God, thanked Saint Panteleimon for his effort and mediation, and immediately, as the same monk related, a great burden was lifted off of him and related that we must endure with patience, joy and thanksgiving the cross and situation of our sicknesses.

Papoulakis: Saint Joachim of Vatopaidi (5)

Vatopaidi Monastery

...continued from Part 4


When the tempest of the war subsided by the mercy of God, though only after a multitude of casualties in the liberation of the nation, blessed Joachim Papoulakis withdrew to his beloved hesychia. However, he did not return to Athos and Vatopaidi, the monastery of his repentance, but preferred instead the quiet areas of the land of his birth, Ithaki; but this was not by human design. Holy men always speak and act “not by their own will, but as they are moved by the Holy Spirit” (see 2 Peter 1:21). This devout athlete in the spiritual arena and instrument for the twofold love of God and man not only always disregarded his own interest, but also directed his every action to the benefit of the people; this was his reason for residing outside of Athos. Throughout the entire course of his lifelong struggle, according to those who knew him, he always linked compassion for others with his own personal asceticism. This is why he preferred to live the hesychastic life within the world, binding together these two callings. Having arrived in Ithaki, he chose to reside in the forest called Aphentikos Longos, meaning “Master’s Thicket.” He remained there for about five years in strict asceticism, barefoot and half-naked, living in fasting and hardships.

During this period, Elder Joachim’s chief occupation was prayer; and he went about it using all of the rules and principles of spiritual inwardness and sobriety that he had practiced so intently during his stay on Athos. His five years of extreme asceticism in his carefree surroundings, coupled with his earlier training, raised him to the level of godly illumination; and Divine Grace elevated him to deified theoria — now a normal state for him — at which point his blessed soul was adorned with clairvoyance and foreknowledge. What is more blessed than the mind that has been illumined and the heart that has been purified? The person who is found worthy of these things sees, by means of them, God and the things of God. How very little we know about the life of holy men — and only in a faint way do they become known to us — and this from glimpses of their life that they themselves have allowed us to see.

Everyone drew attention to the Saint’s prophetic and therapeutic charismata, which were usually revealed when he associated with the people for their benefit. But what struggle did this spiritual giant undergo in order to put off the “old man” (Eph. 4:22) of corruption and lies, to mortify the “members which are on the earth” (Col. 3:5), and to crush the beast of egocentricity — which is truly the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15) — so that “mortality might be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4)? Only fellow spiritual athletes who are one in heart, in way of life, and belief know these things; those who take up the cross of Christ; those who have hurled themselves with zeal into the sea of painstaking diligence and have fully embraced “spiritual poverty” (see Matt. 5:3) by means of voluntary obedience and submission. “As many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them” (Gal. 6:16), and this is precisely what the blessed Elder Joachim Papoulakis did. “By their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:20), says our Lord. The spiritual charismata that adorned his benevolent soul and his innumerable miracles, through which he still today benefits the faithful, tell us of his spiritual riches and of the boldness he has before God.

When people hear about a miracle - a supernatural manifestation of Divine Grace - being done through a holy person, they usually express their wonder and astonishment. They are more amazed, however, by the supernatural occurrence than by the person that Divine Grace has acted through and about how much boldness and holiness he has been found worthy of. Every supernatural occurrence is a work of Divine Grace, a work of the uncreated divine energies, by which the All-wise and Almighty God fashioned and maintains the created universe. These divine energies keep the entire creation balanced, so that it continues to behave in character precisely and faithfully in terms of appropriate seasons and processes. When a miracle occurs, however, this is precisely a “supernatural” movement of the laws and rules of nature, an intervention by God who rules and governs it. For this to happen, some familiar intermediary must mediate before the Divine Majesty, one whose status and candour before God are such that He will alter the workings of the laws of nature. This extraordinary intermediary, who as a friend of God has the candour to transform the earthly elements, is a holy person who either lives on the earth and belongs to the Church Militant or has been translated from this life and is now found in the Church Triumphant in the Kingdom of Heaven.

What we have written at this point has been to show how someone becomes holy, becomes a saint, because only in this way can he become a friend of God. These remarks of ours are intended to demonstrate the high standing and worthiness of a saint, showing how much he had to labor and struggle in order to arrive, by the grace of God, at this state. In our times, there are very few heroes and giants who achieve this state, even if it is a favor and a gift of God. Our blessed Father Joachim, whom we are describing here, is not a spiritual athlete from “that time” but a contemporary offspring of our Church. How many, many people there are even today who remember stories about his life that were told to them by their parents and relatives who lived with him, saw and heard him, and in general received benefit from him.


Living in strict asceticism in the ravine known as Gouves, Elder Joachim was becoming known especially by the nearby inhabitants. At first, a few elderly women were visiting him for their spiritual benefit, something that often happens with the Greek people. Those that benefited from their visits spoke about it to others, and soon Papoulakis, as they called him, became the centre of interest for the people of Ithaki. With his winsome and eloquent manner of expression, he captivated the masses, but even more so he consoled the distressed, supported the weak and infirm, and continually promoted piety and a virtuous morality, which during that period of foreign occupation had been brushed aside. He gave more of his attention to the poor and destitute, and whatever money or material goods were given to him, he distributed to them. To those, however, whose needs were spiritual rather than material, blessed Papoulakis repeated the saying of the Chief Apostle Peter: “What I do have I give you” (Acts 3:6); and by means of the clairvoyant gift that Divine Grace had so lavishly bestowed upon him, he resolved the uncertainties that troubled believers, rescuing them from dangers or harm that they would have suffered had they followed their own devices. He thwarted plots and retaliatory murders that were being planned in absolute secrecy, freed people from sterility, foretold future events that would happen to various persons, and revealed things about people who were missing or were far away.

The virtuous life and continual teaching of this blessed man so influenced this forsaken people that it brought about a palpable transformation in their moral behaviour. The otherwise unchecked crime was significantly reduced, and a moral life and order became the general rule on the island. But out of resentment for this spiritual progress and prosperity, Satan, that evil leader, incited others to make his first assault in order to hinder the Elder. Some envious and malicious men spread rumours that the Elder had prophesied that a great earthquake was about to happen, and because of it, the pregnant women would miscarry their children, something that upset the British governor of the area. This pompous fellow summoned Papoulakis and arrogantly began to threaten him. With a humble demeanour, the blessed Elder answered in defence that he had never said such a thing, that it was slander. However, the haughty governor reproached the Elder, and monasticism in general, and in anger rose from his seat in order to mistreat the humble monk. But, O Thy wonders, Lord All-bountiful and our King! The armchair of the governor was spontaneously shattered into pieces, and he fell to the ground unconscious. His guards moved him immediately to his bed, where he came to after several hours following medical intervention. As soon as he got up, this previously presumptuous man fell at the Elder’s feet and asked his forgiveness. He gave him permission to go about freely wherever he wanted and to exercise his spiritual duties, and proclaimed to everyone that he was a saint. This was one of the first acts by which the most blessed Elder revealed the supernatural power of Grace that had come to reside in his soul, because God’s holy ones, according to the sacred verse, “judge all things, yet they themselves are judged by no one” (see 1 Cor. 2:15).

According to the description of his first biographer, the blessed Elder was in this supernatural state of Grace from the initial stage of his repentance at Vatopaidi Monastery. At some nearby harbour - which most certainly would have been that of Vatopaidi Monastery - some vessels were mooring in order to exchange goods? Blessed Joachim foresaw approaching bad weather and warned the ships’ captains to leave the area where they were docked and to move to a safer place, which most likely he himself indicated. All of them complied with his advice except one, who instead mocked the Elder. Suddenly, however, such a tempest arose that only those who believed him and fled were saved, whereas the ship of the man who scorned his warning was destroyed.

Another time, while still a monk on Athos, when he had been sent for duties out in the world — perhaps to the dependencies of the Monastery which at that time were outside the Holy Mountain — he met a family man in a wretched state that belied his misfortune. The Saint asked him the reason for his trouble, and he explained that he was living as a bondservant to a doctor. He owed the doctor money because he had healed his wife and his children from a serious disease, and he had nothing else to offer him. Thus, for recompense, he became his permanent servant; consequently, his family was suffering from abject poverty. Blessed Joachim’s heart went out to the man, and he suggested that he allow him to take his place, if the doctor would agree to the arrangement. Hence, with the agreement of the doctor as well, Papoulakis stayed on as a servant in place of the poor householder, and he continued his duties. Seeing the monk’s earnestness, the doctor was filled with admiration for him. He bought him a new pair of shoes so that he would not have to go about barefoot and suffering. The next day, he saw him once again barefoot and asked where his new shoes were. The monk told him that he had given them to some poor person. Afterwards, he bought him some clothes, since his own were little more than rags, but these shared the same fate as the shoes. After this, the doctor, seeing among other things his austere way of life, relieved him of his servitude because, as he admitted, he could not bear to be waited on by such a holy person. Papoulakis himself disclosed this to the doctor’s former bondservant when the poor man saw him going about freely and asked how he was released from his service to the doctor.

To be continued…Part 6