October 7, 2012

Monk Joachim Agiannanitis, Who Was Previously a Thief (+ 1889)

The cave of Monk Joachim

By Monk Moses the Athonite

Monk Joachim Agiannanitis (of Saint Anna's Skete) was born in the village of Kallikratis Sfakia in Crete in the 19th century. As a layman he was a fearsome thief and was the fear and terror of the Turks. He would secretly help the Christians. The Turkish aga gave him everything just to leave the island.

With the presence and help of Saint Anna he came to her Athonite Skete and was tonsured a monk and given the name Joachim. For five years he lived next to the Kyriakon (main church of the Skete) in a small Cell humbly governed by the fathers of the Skete. Then he went to a cave to continue his ascetic struggles, enduring there the frost of winter and the heat of summer. During a visit to him, Elder Joachim Spetsieris wrote: "He had no possessions in his cave except a pitcher with water; neither a bed nor clothing for sleep, except for what he wore, this he slept in, although most of the night he kept vigil with prayer. As I understood it, he took a little sleep by reclining against the wall of his cave."

Enduring with admirable self-denial the difficult weather conditions, hunger and thirst, the contrary passions and the vicious and insidious demons, he emerged victorious. He never lit a fire, he did not wear new or clean clothes, and he did not give rest to his flesh. He was left to count his prayer rope with small stones which he would throw from one bucket to another. He also had the good habit to walk through those difficult trails, cleaning them, facilitating some hikers. At crossroads he would place a cross, so pilgrims would not lose their way.

Although illiterate, he memorized many hymns and he would say them with much solemnity. He brought to action the word of St. John of the Ladder: "The true monk suffers violence from nature perpetually and imprisons the senses continuously." Incessant fasting, constant vigil, temperance unending, unparalleled indigence, great hardship and merciless violent suffering. To his few visitors he offered some stale nuts and water and begged them to taste, so that even if they were full they were unable to deny the blessing of hospitality. He had a permanent and strong sense of his sinfulness. He would continuously thank God and the Grandmother of God for his conversion and sincere repentance.

Before the end of his life he returned to his small Cell in the Skete, participating in the Sacred Services and received in the Divine Liturgies with an extremely contrite heart. God gifted him with clairvoyance, discernment, and foreknowledge. His prayers were wonderworking. The Russians especially had great reverence for him. When three Russians passed by his Kalyva, to the first he gave three beans, to the second he gave some incense, and to the third he gave a flower. When the fathers asked him why he gave those, he responded: The first will become a monk, the second his father will die, and the third will get married. So it happened.

He foresaw his end. He became slightly ill from old age. All the fathers respected him and wanted to take care of his needs as much as they could. He only drank water. Despite his physical weakness, the powers of his soul were vigorous, his mind clear, and his prayer continuous. The sun was setting. The fathers chanted Vespers for the feast of the Life-Giving Spring. Elder Joachim shouted loudly: "My Panagia, My Panagia!" and ended his much-suffering life. After his venerable repose many miracles were reported by many ill Russians. He rested in the Lord in 1889.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos