December 8, 2009

Saint Patapios of Thebes and His Monastery in Loutraki

Saint Patapios of Thebes (Feast Day - December 8; Bright Tuesday)

By John Sanidopoulos

Saint Patapios was born in 380 in the Egyptian city of Thebes. His father was a governor of the region and a descendant of a well known Egyptian family. He and his wife were devout Christians and instructed Patapios in Holy Scripture. As Patapios reached a mature age, well-known tutors were brought from Alexandria to instruct him in science, mathematics, philosophy and rhetoric. Through this education, he became acutely aware of how transient this world is and was attracted to an ascetic way of life. He was particularly inspired by Clement, Origen and Athanasius. His father also took him to the renowned catechetical school in Alexandria where Patapios came under the influence of a blind teacher named Didymus. Didymus inspired him even further to desire the ascetic path he had chosen. When he finished his studies, he returned to Thebes to find out that his father had passed away. Desiring to live a life like the ascetics, he decided to leave for the Egyptian desert where he became well known for his ascetic deeds.

In the desert his struggles against the passions and to attain all the virtues led to his illumination, which drew numerous monks and people to seek his guidance. The more people came, the more he tried to conceal himself. Since light cannot be concealed in darkness, however, wherever he went he was discovered. No longer able to find peace in the desert he set off for Constantinople in 428. During his voyage, he met his disciple Sechnuti, who was an Egyptian rower. During this voyage, their ship passed near Corinth where they stayed for seven years in cave.

By 435, after seven years in Corinth, Patapios left his skete in the Geranian mountains to resume his journey to Constantinople taking with him the monk Sechnuti. In Constantinople, they secretly went to the Monastery of Blachernae, where he obtained a cell in the city wall. Patapios kept his identity a secret and resumed a life of strict fasting, vigil and prayer under the guise of a simple monk.

Here he performed many miracles of healing. A child, blind from birth, was led by God's providence to Staint Patapios. He besought the Saint to pray to God that he be given his sight and be able to look upon God's creation - thus allowing him to praise God all the more. Patapios having compassion on the suffering child, prayed to God, and the child's sight was restored. This miracle revealed God's chosen one throughout the entire city, and people rushed to him for healing, comfort and instruction.

Patapios healed an eminent man of dropsy by tracing the sign of the Cross over him and anointing him with oil. By making the sign of the Cross in the air with his hand, he freed a youth from an unclean spirit that had cruelly tormented him. The evil spirit, with a loud shriek, came out from God's creature like smoke. He made the sign of the Cross over a woman who had a sore on her breast all filled with worms, and made her healthy. Many other miracles did Saint Patapios perform, all through prayer in the name of Christ and by the sign of the Cross.

After a life adorned with virtue and miracles, he died at the great age of eighty-three in 463 and was buried by his disciples in the Church of Saint John the Forerunner in Constantinople.

One thousand years after the repose of the Saint, when the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, his relics where removed and taken to the little cave in Corinth (as he had requested during his lifetime). The Saint's body was hidden behind a western wall in the cave facing the iconostasis and chapel they built. The memory of the Saint's whereabouts soon disappeared.

In 1904 a local priest, Father Constantine Sosanis, was serving the chapel in this cave. He was an unnaturally tall priest who regularly served this small chapel and because of his height commissioned some changes to the chapel. The night before the works to the western wall were to commence, Fr. Constantine had a dream in which a monk warned him to "take care when you break the wall because I am on the other side. I am Saint Patapios of Egypt." He was found the next day under tiles holding a large wooden cross on his chest, a parchment scroll with his name, Roman coins, and large leaves covering his relics as fresh as they had been picked that very moment. A sweet odor also exuded from his relics.

The holy relic is now in a special wooden structure at the back of the cave. Inside the cave there are also Roman wall paintings from the 13th century, with three prominent figures of St. Patapios, St. Ipomoni and St. Nikon. The monastery church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains at its center the Mother of God for veneration. The church also holds the relic skull of St. Ipomoni (Empress Helen Dragash) and part of the hip bone of St. Nikon.

In 1952 a Greek priest, Father Nektarios Marmarinos, built the all-female monastery on this site. The local people initially resisted this idea since the location of the monastery is very difficult to reach even to this day. After the founding of the monastery, Sister Patapia was nominated as Abbess, with Father Nektarios Marmarinos as its spiritual leader. Today, there are some forty nuns living in the cells of the foundation and the current Abbess is Mother Isidora.

Since Saint Patapios' relics have been discovered, many people have been visited by the Saint in visions and dreams asking them to visit "his house in Loutraki." He is especially known for healing cancer, and miracles occur throughout the world, including as far off as Australia and America.

Miracle - The Conversion of a Catholic

It was Pascha of 1986 on Mount Athos when Elder Martinianos of St. Panteleimon Skete in Kapsala, of the Holy Monastery Pantocratoros, related the following miracle of St. Patapios.

The Elder had a relative in West Germany named George. While in Germany, George married a German woman who was Catholic and had not been baptized Orthodox. They had married Orthodox, their two children received Orthodox baptism, but the wife continued to remain Catholic despite worshipping in Orthodox churches.

They returned to Greece to New Smyrna, their local parish being St. Sosti. In 1985 they decided to spend the summer in Loutraki of Corinth. One day they went up to the Monastery of Saint Patapios and venerated his holy relics. The husband entered first and venerated first. The wife was right behind him and, though Catholic, she also was going to venerate the relics, when suddenly she fainted and fell to the floor.

The husband immediately took her into his arms and with the help of other pilgrims brought her outside for some fresh air. Having recovered, they asked her why she fainted.

She answered, astonished:

"What, you didn't see, you didn't hear? The Saint pushed me and said: 'How can you, a heretic, approach me?'"

At that moment she asked that she be baptized Orthodox. After a few catechetical lessons at her parish, she was baptized Orthodox.

Today she continues to make her pilgrimage to the Holy Monastery of Saint Patapios, with great faith and reverence. And since her baptism, she has said that she feels like an entirely different person. In one telephone conversation, spoken of in the book by Monk Nikodemos Bilali who compiled the life and services of the Saint, she says:

"When I pray, I feel like God is mine, my Father, though before I felt nothing. Now I light my candle at the Iconostasi, I prepare prosphora, I Commune, I read lives of Saints, and my soul feels God near me. How can I explain this to you? It is something very different from before, a certainty that I am near God. And I ascribe this to Saint Patapios, whom I thank."

Visions of Saint Patapios

1. Saint Patapios had appeared in a vision to Fr. Nektarios, the founder of the Holy Monastery of Saint Patapios, while a student in Corinth. He began the architectural design of the Monastery in 1947.

During this time Metropolitan Prokopios of Corinth got sick and went to the hospital. Fr. Nektarios visited him on January 23, 1951 to pray over him. Once the Metropolitan saw him, he became very moved and said:

"Saint Patapios told me in my sleep that he wants his Monastery to happen! We cannot do otherwise!"

Then he gave the following commands:

a. For the chancellor of the Metropolis, Metropolitan Gabriel Kalokairinos, to get the keys to the cave which the priests of Loutraki had and give them to Fr. Nektarios.

b. For no priest to serve there without permission from the Metropolis.

c. For the Monastery to be recognized quickly after he proposed this to the Holy Synod.

d. To help financially to make sure this happens and for nuns to occupy the Monastery by August 1952.

Metropolitan Prokopios is considered the great founder of the Monastery. He fell asleep in the Lord on December 3, 1964 and is forever commemorated there with a plaque at the entrance. Upon his death he donated his entire vast library of books as well as other possessions from the Metropolis. May his memory be eternal!

2. The Monastery one day ran out of oil. Saint Patapios appeared to a gentleman in Koropi, Attica. He asked him for a barrel of oil. "Where do you want me to bring it old man?" The elder gave him the address to the Monastery and disappeared. The gentleman filled a barrel of oil and brought it to Loutraki. As difficult as it is to walk up to the Monastery, he did this carrying the barrel and brought it to the door.

3. The cave where the relics are is very cold and damp, and in the winter is frigid. Some prayed to the Saint: "Even the poorest houses have rags to use as rugs. Your little cave here has nothing, and we along with you are freezing. Do something to find something." That night Saint Patapios appeared to a woman in Corinth and gave her directions on the rug he wanted for his house in the cave. He wanted it to be black and red and gave the exact size he wanted, then asked her to bring it to the Monastery. The woman made it, brought it, layed it down in the cave, and it matched perfectly.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The image of God, was faithfully preserved in you, O Father. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By Your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh for it passes, rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal. Wherefore, O Holy Patapios, your soul rejoices with the angels.

Another Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou didst follow the divine call from thy youth, and illumine the world with the gifts of thy holy labours. Thou wast made glorious with the grace of dispassion, and dost heal various passions. O Patapios, venerable Father, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Having found thy church to be a place of spiritual healing, all the people flock with haste thereto, O Saint, and they ask thee to bestow the ready healing of their diseases and forgiveness of the sins they wrought in their lifetime; O Patapios most righteous, in every need, thou art the protector of all.

Ιερά μονή Οσίου Παταπίου Λουτρακίου 2002
230 00 Λουτράκι Greece

27440 22496