January 9, 2013

I Knew St. Nikephoros the Leper (video)

According to His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, who shot the above video, this is a "Testimony from a parishioner of St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church in Boardman, Ohio, following the Divine Liturgy on Monday, January 7, 2013, the Synaxis of St. John." Below I made a rough translation:

My name is Ioannis Simoudis, from Chios, from the parish of Saint Matthew Kofina, which is about 400 meters from the Leper Hospital of Chios. This is where St. Anthimos was when I was a young child. There, in the Church of Saint Lazarus, was a leper named Nikephoros, whom St. Anthimos brought from Egypt when he was young. He left because he was afraid they would take him to Spinalonga. An Archimandrite from Chios knew St. Anthimos and wrote him, and St. Anthimos brought him [Nikephoros] to Chios. Because Chios was under the Turks at that time, St. Anthimos had to pay, I believe, 98 gold pieces to allow him to bring him to the Leper Hospital in Chios. So St. Anthimos went to Smyrna and brought him.

When I was a young child my mother Markella would take me to the Leper Hospital, to Saint Lazarus Church, for services like the Paraklesis to the Panagia, during Great Lent, etc. As I was sitting next to him, he would sit there and I would see him bundled in his rags, his hands melted, his ears had fallen, half of his lip was missing. We weren't afraid at all, because at that time we did't know about this sickness.

I left Chios for America at 17, and I grew up and got married. I returned [to Chios] in 1999. I went into the Leper Hospital to the Church of Saint Lazarus. For years I had discussed with my wife about what happened to that venerable saint, Nikephoros. I couldn't find out anything. Eventually a woman from Chios said: "I will bring you a gift tomorrow." The next day she brought me a book of the Venerable Nikephoros the Leper. That same night in Chios I read it. When I returned back to America, my daughter, without telling me, took the book and brought it to the Poconos, where she had an enormous icon made of the Venerable Nikephoros the Leper. When I was going into surgery, and had this icon in the house, every day I would say certain prayers to St. Nikephoros: "Nikephoros, venerable ascetic, do not neglect me the spiritual paralytic. But you diverge beastly sickness and all sin and so raise us up." "You are a living icon of virtue, and similar, Father, to Job in patience. You endured sorrows and were well-pleasing to God, therefore posthumously you were fragrant." And I learned his whole story, and learned that in his last days they sent him to the Leper Hospital in Athens, at Saint Barbara's. And he went from no one visiting him while he was sick, to thousands waiting in line to see him at the Leper Hospital in Athens. He never complained nor said anything of his sickness. In the end, when his grave was opened, he was fragrant.

I was moved when I heard that he was declared a Saint, because he was in my heart all these years. I asked for him and wondered what happened to him, what happened to the Venerable Nikephoros. And in the end God allowed this knowledge to unfold. The book has also been translated into English to be published in Greece.