November 3, 2010

Saint Anna the Virgin, Sister of St. George Karslides

Sts. George and Anna Karslides (Feast Day - November 4)

Venerable Anna the Virgin was born in 1896 in Argyroupolis, Pontus of pious parents, Savva Karslides and Sophia. Her brother, the future Elder George Karslides, was born in 1901 and baptized with the name Athanasios. When Anna was a young child and Athanasios an infant, both parents died and they were left orphans. Their father was killed in battle and when he was brought home dead their mother also died in her grief; both were buried in the same tomb.

Their only educator was their most pious grandmother, mother of their father, who implanted in their delicate hearts a piety and love for liturgical life. She herself had three sons among whom, the one had died, the other had been killed and the third had been lost without her knowing if he were alive or dead. As young Anna and Athanasios grew physically, their grandmother rejoiced in their spiritual progress as well.

Sensing her demise, the grandmother called the two young siblings to her side to counsel them for the last time and to give them her blessing. To Athanasios she gave as an heirloom and protection a small icon of the Panagia. She entrusted Anna to be raised by their good neighbors. Thus the pain of the grandmother lessened for her two orphaned children, and soon thereafter she entered into blessed rest.

For an unknown reason Anna also entered into blessed rest at the age of fourteen in 1910. She was about to enter an engagement with her neighbor's son when she got ill and died. Three years after her repose a good Turk who lived in Argyroupolis would often walk near the Christian cemetery. Every night he would see a light coming from one tomb in particular. Muslims gathered to find out from whose tomb this light was coming from, and they discovered it was that of Anna Karslides. The Imam of the area notified the Christian bishop.

All the Christians gathered with prayers and petitions around their bishop and their priests at the exhuming of her relics after three years of repose. It was then discovered that the heart and the right hand of young Anna were incorrupt and covered in gold, while the rest of her bones had a yellowish color as is often seen on the relics of saints. The bishop took her relics and placed them in the church. When Anna's fiance saw this, he requested of the bishop a portion of her relics and travelled to the Holy Land where he became a monk. Her brother Athanasios also requested a portion of her relics, which he kept with him always and brought with him later on to Greece. The bishop had given him a piece of her heart, but years later Elder George would return to Argyroupolis to gather the rest.

Today Saint Anna's relics are kept in a silver ark before the icon of the Panagia in the Monastery of the Ascension of Christ in the village of Sipsa, which is in Drama, Greece.

In 2008 St. George and his sister Anna were officially acknowledged to be Saints by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.